Vikings Need Luck on Their Side to Secure 2-Seed Before Week 18

Photo: Isaiah Vazquez - Getty Images

The (11-3) Minnesota Vikings and (8-5-1) New York Giants will do battle on Christmas Eve at US Bank Stadium, Saturday afternoon. It will be the first ever “white out” game in Vikings lore so wear white if you plan to attend.

Vikings want rest in week 18

It’s an important matchup for the purple, especially if O’Connell & Co are going to lock in the NFC’s 2-seed before week 18. And that’s the hope, according to Darren Wolfson (KSTP, SKOR North). Because the Vikings would like to rest key players when they travel to Chicago to play the Bears for the regular season finale. Soldier Field is one of the worst playing surfaces in the NFL, despite what the NFLPA may think, and avoiding catastrophic injury entering the postseason is top of mind.

“What the Vikings are hoping for is to secure the 2-seed before that last game in Chicago. If you think about that turf in Chicago… I had someone with the Vikings tell me this the other day. That turf is so bad, the Vikings don’t want to risk injury the week before a playoff game.” Darren Wolfson (SKOR North)

To have any chance of that happening, Minnesota will have to win both of their next two games and hope the San Francisco 49ers drop one in that same timeframe. The Vikings will need luck on their side to make that happen because the 49ers look like one of the best teams in football right now.

Lady Luck loves both teams

Lucky for them (pun intended), four leaf clovers and horseshoes haven’t been hard to find during the first 15 weeks of the season. According to the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings are the 2nd-luckiest team in the league. On Saturday, however, they’ll face THE luckiest team, the New York Giants.

We’ve talked a little bit about this newfound “luck” measurement before. But here’s how the NFL explains it, along with some specific explanations via their Football Ops Data Scientist, Tom Bliss.

Although NFL game outcomes are far from random, teams still get lucky. We identified four key scenarios where teams benefit from actions in a game that are almost entirely derived from opponent performance or lucky bounces.

  • Dropped Interception (dropped by opponent): When an opponent drops an interception, you get lucky. We assume that the intercepting team keeps possession at the spot of the drop. 
  • Dropped Pass (dropped by opponent): When an opponent drops a pass, you get lucky. We assume the offense would gain yards after catch using the Next Gen Stats Expected YAC model.
  • Field Goals and Extra Points (attempted by opponent): When an opponent misses a kick, you get lucky, and when your opponent makes a kick, you get unlucky. Field goal make probabilities are based on the Next Gen Stats Field Goal Probability model.
  • Fumble Recoveries (by either team): When a team recovers a fumble, there’s a chance the luck of the bounce was involved. Fumble recovery probabilities are based on observed recovery percentages by when the fumble occurred (i.e., after a catch, during a rush, fumbled snap, muffed punt).
Just win, baby

Whether you believe in this “luck” methodology or not, it’s impossible to have watched this Minnesota Vikings season without wondering if there is a destiny factor built into their success. The comeback vs Buffalo is one of the best of 2022 and took the greatest catch of all time to complete. And the victory last week vs Indianapolis is in the NFL history books as the largest comeback ever.

But this weekend, they’ll face the only NFL team supposedly luckier than they are. What does that mean? Probably nothing. The Vikings are at home and playing an 8-5-1 team that lacks high-end talent on offense, beyond Saquon Barkley.

Just win, baby.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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