Checking our 2015 predictions
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

We here in the sports blogosphere like making bold predictions. It’s fun, and it gives us something to do in the football-starved summer months. But what’s the point of making predictions if we don’t occasionally check back and see how we did? So we thought it would be fun (and/or disheartening) to take a look at our* guesses from last offseason and compare them to what actually happened. Cheers to accountability.

*Okay, I technically wasn’t on the VT staff until this year, so I wasn’t actually involved in any of these predictions. But what could make me a better, more independent ombudsman for this process? Nothing, I say.

To the predictions!

1. Predicting the Minnesota Vikings 2015 Record

On May 14, 2015, Lindsey Young posed this question to the VT writers: what will be the team’s regular season record in 2015? The responses:

Arif: 9-7

Carl: 10-6

Adam W: 10-6

Austin: 9-7

Andy: 10-6

Brent: 10-6

Actual Record: 11-5

Coming off a 7-9 season, everyone expected the Vikings to improve, just not as much as they actually did. While nobody nailed the record exactly, every prognosticator was within two games, which is pretty impressive. It’s worth noting that everyone on the panel lowballed the win total…so, basically, IN YOUR FACE, HATERS!

Kidding, of course. A four-win improvement from one year to the next is very rare, and even predicting the Vikings go from 7-9 to 10-6 took guts. All in all, I’m proud of the VT team on this one. So logically, this means the team will finish a few wins better than our consensus 2016 prediction of 13-3 and have one of the best years in franchise history, right? Right? Hello?

2. Who Will Be Teddy Bridgewater’s Favorite Target in 2015?

The question was posed by Austin in the form of a Poll of the Week, so it was the VT readership in charge of responding to this one. Here were the results:

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 8.09.29 AMWell… not so good. This is a pretty good reminder that we had no idea what was going on in terms of passing game distribution before last season. The clear leader in the poll, Charles Johnson—who garnered 28% more votes than the next closest player—was a nonfactor for most of the year. Johnson had 13 total targets in 2015, good for 11th on the team, one spot ahead of Zach Line. The two players to get the next most votes, Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph, finished third and second on the team in targets, respectively, so we did a much better job of pegging where they would fit in. The big omission, of course, was rookie Stefon Diggs, who led the team in targets with 84 but wasn’t even included in the poll (unless you count the “Other” category, which received just over 3% of the vote).

So what happened? Two things, mainly. One, the emergence of Diggs, who, after being inactive the first three games, cracked the lineup and quickly emerged as the top target in the passing game. While in retrospect Diggs was a glaring omission from the poll, it would be very difficult to predict he would have that type of impact before the season—he was a fifth round draft pick for a team that seemingly had more capable receivers in front of him (Johnson, Wallace, Rudolph, et al).

The second thing was the oddly precipitous drop of Charles Johnson. After carving out a role as a reliable possession receiver in 2014, Johnson seemed a lock to be a starter in 2015 (and, clearly, seemed destined to garner a lot of looks from Bridgewater). Instead, he did basically nothing. Johnson had nine catches on the year, and other than the dramatic 35-yard reception to set up the winning field goal against the Bears, he was invisible. He wasn’t targeted once after Week 6. To me, the disappearing act by Charles Johnson is one of the great mysteries of the 2015 season. The emergence of Diggs surely played a part, but they’re two entirely different players, and it’s hard to think they couldn’t have coexisted in the offense. The fact that Mike Wallace never seemed to be comfortable in the system would seem to work in Johnson’s favor, but even still, the team consistently looked elsewhere at receiver. Confounding, and, along with the unexpectedly good rookie year from Diggs, a good reminder that we know nothing.

3. Which Viking Will Lead in Sacks in 2015?

Posed by Lindsey on May 28 as a Question of the Week. Here’s how the gang answered:

Adam W: Everson Griffen

Andy: Anthony Barr

Carl: Everson Griffen

Austin: Everson Griffen

Brent: Everson Griffen

Lindsey: Anthony Barr

Actual Leader: Everson Griffen

Not bad! Two thirds of our respondents nailed it. Griffen led the team with 10.5 sacks, and rookie Danielle Hunter finished second with 6. Barr, on the other hand, came in sixth on the team with only 3.5 sacks. Injuries played a role, but more than that, we got a clearer picture in year two of what Anthony Barr is as an NFL player; he has the talent to rush the passer, but he will be asked to do much more than that in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Barr will be used as the all-around switchblade at linebacker, and his assignments will evolve with each opponent, so his sack number will be tough to predict. Still, conventional wisdom say’s it’s higher than 3.5 in 2016.

4. Which 3 NFL Running Backs Will Have the Best 2015 Season?

It was a simple question posed on July 2, 2015. Lindsey asked the gang to project the top three running backs of 2015. The answers:

Adam W:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. Jamaal Charles

Andy:

  1. Jamaal Charles
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Eddie Lacy

Brent:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Jamaal Charles
  3. LeSean McCoy

Austin:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. Marshawn Lynch

Lindsey:

  1. Eddie Lacy
  2. Adrian Peterson
  3. Jamaal Charles
Actual Top Three (based on rushing yards):
  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Doug Martin
  3. Todd Gurley
via ESPN.com
via ESPN.com
Takeaways:
  • The team more or less nailed the Adrian Peterson pick. Three of the five respondents had him in the top spot, and all five had him in the top two.
  • After Peterson, it goes off the rails. The second and third leading rushers, Doug Martin and Todd Gurley, didn’t appear on anyone’s list. In fact, no running back in the top ten, outside Peterson, was mentioned by the VT team. Martin and Gurley being left off are understandable—it was nearly impossible to trust Martin after a putrid 2014, and there was no way to know Gurley would rebound so well from his knee injury and account for so much of the Rams’ offense as a rookie. Looking at the rest of the top ten, it’s hard to say there’s one guy who should’ve been mentioned, but wasn’t; it was kind of a wonky season for running backs. The fact that Darren McFadden was the fourth leading rusher in the league should tell you all you need to know.
  • Four of the five prognosticators mentioned Eddie Lacy, and Jamaal Charles was mentioned three times. Charles tore an ACL in October, and if not for the injury, he almost certainly would’ve been in the top five. The real puzzler was Lacy, and this exercise reiterates how high expectations for Eddie Lacy were coming into 2015. To most everyone’s surprise, the Packers didn’t use him as their workhorse back, and even removed him from games completely for long stretches at a time. Lacy’s poor conditioning was the main driver behind the lack of snaps, and he ended up 20th in the NFL in rushing, a lot lower than he was (and is) capable.

 

Conclusions

Predictions for an NFL season are nothing more than educated guesses, and you see the mixed bag of results. Of the four topics examined, I’d say the respondents did a good-to-very-good job on two of them (Vikings regular season record and sack leader). The results for the other two topics—most targets on the Vikings and top three backs in the NFL— were more in the average range. Average because there were some glaring omissions, but neither of the questions were complete whiffs; the poll voters correctly predicted the second- and third-most targeted Vikings (even if they were in reverse order), but missed number one (Diggs) completely, and the entire VT team had the league’s leading rusher in their top three, but the next two most productive running backs weren’t mentioned at all.

Feel free to weigh in in the comments with any other predictions or “conventional wisdoms” you remember being thrown around before last season (at Vikings Territory or elsewhere), and I’ll be happy to check the accuracy of those.