The Minnesota Vikings woke up on Monday morning in first place in the NFC and in the driver’s seat to win the conference.
If the Vikings win the remainder of their games, they hold a tie breaker over the Philadelphia Eagles for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But records aren’t everything. How do the Vikings stack up to the Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints when we dig a little deeper? Let’s have a look at each team by five key stats…
The Vikings have been a strong team all year, but their recent stretch has been incredibly impressive. Not only have they beaten two strong NFC teams in the Rams and Falcons, but since the bye week, they have outscored opponents 106-69 and gained over 400 yards on offense in three of the four contests. They’ve also allowed fewer than 300 total yards to opponents in three of the four.
Offense yards per play rank: 8th
Defense yards per play rank: 3rd
Offense expected points: 6th
Defense expected points: 10th
Point differential: 6th
The Eagles were brought back to earth by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Sunday night, making it fair to wonder if schedule has played a role in their success. The only win the Eagles have against a team with an above .500 record is a 28-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 6. A loss next week against the Rams would really weaken their argument for being the NFC’s best team. Still it’s hard to take away from the way they have dominated mediocre and poor teams. Philly ranks in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rushing and passing yards per attempt and are first in points scored and sixth in points allowed.
Offense yards per play rank: 7th
Defense yards per play rank: 4th (tied)
Offense expected points: 3rd
Defense expected points: 3rd
Point differential: 1st
The Rams have had mixed results when they’ve faced top teams. Their explosive offense was shut down by the Seahawks and Vikings’ defenses, but they won a track meet against the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago. We will have a clear picture of the Rams’ strength after the next two weeks when they match up with the Eagles at home and Seahawks on the road.
Offense yards per play rank: 5th
Defense yards per play rank: 16th
Offense expected points: 7th
Defense expected points: 7th
Point differential: 2nd
This is not the same New Orleans team the Vikings faced Week 1. They have made big strides on defense and have the most impressive offense in the NFL. The addition of Alvin Kamara has given Drew Brees an incredibly dangerous check down option. The rookie from Tennessee has 60 catches and averages 10.2 yards per reception. He’s also helped them jump to the No. 3 rushing attack in the NFL in total yards – an unexpected feat for a team generally known only for its passing game. The Saints have a 2-3 record against winning teams, with both victories coming over Carolina.
Offense yards per play rank: 1st
Defense yards per play rank: 18th
Offense expected points: 2nd
Defense expected points: 14th
Point differential: 5th
Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
Do not sleep on the Seahawks as a Super Bowl contender. They would be 10-2 if not for the kicking stylings of Blair Walsh and have win over the Rams and Eagles. Russell Wilson is making an argument for league MVP and the Seattle defensive line is still dominating. They rank in the top 10 in points for and against and have allowed just a 79.9 rating to opposing QBs.
Carolina Panthers (8-4)
The Panthers have been an enigma. They have wins over the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, but losses to Philadelphia and Seattle. While their defense ranks highly in yards, Carolina is allowing a 94.4 QB rating against and Cam Newton’s performances have been a rollercoaster with three games over a 120 rating mixed in with a number of very poor games.
The NFC features most of the NFL’s most balanced teams, which makes the playoffs especially difficult to predict, but the Vikings’ performances against top teams gives them a leg up on the Eagles. A win for against the Panthers will put the Vikings in prime position to clinch home field, which they will need against a stacked NFC.