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How many more points do the Vikings need to score to make the playoffs?

Dec 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Colts defeated the Vikings 34-6. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, legendary statistical analyst Bill James created a formula for estimating how many games a team should have won based on their run differential.

The website Football-Reference reworked the formula, which can be used to demonstrate when a team should have been better or worse than their final record and in turn help predict which direction a team will go in the future. Here’s the formula:

Expected record =~  -----------------
                    PF^2.37 + PA^2.37

Last season, the Vikings had an expected record of 8.6 wins and 7.4 losses based on their 327 points for and 307 points against.

Any team whose expected record is between 8-8 and 9-7 can expect that the difference between a playoff berth and golf outing will be luck, bounces and how the team finishes games. In the Vikings’ case, they lost two games on last-drive INTs by Sam Bradford, lost another in OT that should have been won by a Blair Walsh field goal and another on a blown two-point conversion call.

Great teams have to get a ton of bad breaks to miss the playoffs or choke like crazy in the clutch. Atlanta, for example, had an expected record of 10.6 wins and 5.4 losses. They ended up 11-5.
The Vikings ranked 23rd in points scored last year. Tacking on 30 points would only move them up from 23rd to 20th – a feat that should be very attainable considering the front office added two new tackles, two new running backs, a deep-threat receiver, a center and three more potential pass-catching draft picks.
Based on Pro-Football Reference’s expected points statistic – which is based on the number of points expected in each situation – Minnesota’s improved running game alone should get them into 10-win range. In 2016, the Vikings ranked 32nd in rushing with an estimated 59 points lost between being their performance and that of an average team.
If the Vikings had scored 59 more points last season, they would have ranked 13th in the NFL total points.
Bradford and the passing offense ranked 14th in expected points in 2016 – a mark that is likely repeatable or could be topped with better pass protection. There was a 15-point gap between 14th and 12th (Indianapolis).
It isn’t crazy to think the Vikings could be an average running team and above average passing team, which would mean they have the capability of adding somewhere in the range of 75 more points or 4.6 extra points per game.
With an elite defense, a large bump offensive production would push the Vikings to an expected record of 11-5.
But there should be some expected regression on the defensive side. Teams rarely repeat top-five performances year after year (as was studied here). And Bradford had the best season of his career in 2016, making it difficult to know whether he will slip back or take the next step forward.
The numbers don’t tell us whether everything will go the offense’s way, but they do tell us that the Vikings will need their offseason moves to be a big hit in order to become a serious contender again.

  • linus

    NFL writers are probably looking forward to training camp even more than fans are, so that they can stop having to write the same stories over and over again.

  • MR

    If the Vikings had a better kicking game last season, Kai Forbath all season and a punter better than Jeff Locke, they would have had a larger point differential over their opponents, they would have had a 10-6 record, and would have made the playoffs.
    If Sam Bradford plays as well as he did last season, his statistics will probably improve significantly with a better offensive line and better running backs. If Sam Bradford avoids injuries he is very reliable. His years of experience in the NFL have helped him become a better QB.
    The Vikings may give up more points if their defense regresses, but they will likely more than compensate for this by scoring more points.
    How well the Vikings coach their players, Injuries, and improvements made by other teams will determine the results.
    Matt Coller, in your articles about the Vikings, you like to write about Sam Bradford. Your comments about him are not well thought-out. Your thinking is simplistic, you seem to feel that the quarterback is ultimately responsible for every win and loss.

    • MarkWattsMN

      “If the Vikings had a better kicking game last season”

      If the Vikings have better coaching as well, better coaching wins both Detroit games.

      • Johnny

        Disagree, the Vikings have an amazing coaching staff. Given all the injuries last season any lesser staff wouldn’t have won half the games they did. What are you a Packers fan? Or just hater or just dumb? Or all 3?

        • MarkWattsMN

          I’m a realist.

          Go back and watch the last minute of the Detroit game they blew, some of the worst coaching I’ve seen.

          Lions out of TOs? Sure, Zimmer will call one with 27 seconds left so the Lions get the ball back with 23 seconds left to tie it up rather than run it down because the Vikings had another TO if needed.

          Just brutal coaching, no excuses can be made for that.

          • Sherry Chappel

            Realist: pessimist who won’t admit it. The defense could be better over the long haul if the offense can keep the ball longer. Would you be any more disappointed if you had been optimistic last year? I know you would have had more fun! Buck-up sissy pants

  • Gordon Guffey

    Giving the offense as a whole has a full offseason to work in Shurmur offense should help in a big way ~ If we can believe anything from OTA’s Treadwell looked much improved ~ With Easton or Elflein starting at Center it will allow Berger to move to right OG ~ Both of the OT’s ((( I know the guys a ESPN1500 did not like either of these signings ))) will be huge improvement ~ Again it depends on if you believe what came out of OTA’s ((( players and coaches speak ))) or not Cook looks like he is the real deal already ~ Same goes for Morgan as the #2 TE ~ They say he is running much better routes and catching most everything that comes his way and getting open from short to mid range often ~ I still believe based off of past playing time a healthy Murray will be the starting RB when the season starts ~ McKinnon has put on 11 pounds of muscle while working out with AP ~ Murray~Cook~Mckinnon should be much better all around RB not having to come off the field like AP did helping to keep defenses from keying on what the Vikings might do ~ Besides the good news on Treadwell at WR same goes for Diggs and Thielen as they both are getting their first offseason with Shurmur and Bradford and are said to be improved over the crash course they had to work with last year with Bradford showing up 8 days before game 1 ~

    So many thing to point out on offense and their are some what~ifs that could take a step forward ~ The Vikings lost 4 games by less than 7 points in 2016 ~ Had they found a way to pull those out they would have finished 12~4 made the playoffs and Zimmer would have been voted HC of the year with all of the injures the Vikings suffered ~ If the Vikings can stay healthy I cant see any way they dont make the playoffs in 2017 ~ JMHO ~

  • JonasGrumby

    More than their opponents

  • Vikomatic

    30 pts? 5 more touchdowns than last year? If the O line was at least average and Murray was there instead of Asiata we likely would have had 7 more touchdowns last year. How many flippin times were we kept out of the end zone from 5 yards or less? I Bradford wasn’t running for his life we might have had even more 20 yard plus passes. I’m not saying we’re going to be the Patriots but 30 more points should be a no brainer. I’m thinking we should have 10 more touchdowns conservatively.


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