Vikings Battle DVOA Demons with Playoffs Near

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

You, the fan, may be excited about the upcoming playoff tournament, an event involving the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2019.

But the NFL masses, plus the popular “analytics crowd,” expect the Vikings to lose early in the postseason. Minnesota hasn’t won a game with a cover-to-cover effort since September 11th (or Week 1 of the regular season). The Vikings toppled the Packers that afternoon 23-7, and that was the last time Minnesota beat a team by more than eight points.

Vikings Battle DVOA Demons with Playoffs Near

No metric illustrates the Vikings alleged woes more than Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric. You’ll want to be sitting down for this one: the Vikings rank 28th in the NFL per DVOA. In layman’s terms, Minnesota is the NFL’s fifth-worst team. Only the Arizona Cardinals (29th), Chicago Bears (30th), Houston Texans (31st), and Indianapolis Colts (32nd) are weaker football teams than the Vikings, according to Football Outsiders.

Vikings Battle DVOA Demons
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For NFL newcomers, this is how DVOA is defined:

DVOA breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality. While it can be used as a measure of total team performance, it differs from other power ratings found throughout the Web because it can be broken down to analyze team effectiveness in any number of ways: down, quarter, rushing vs. receiving, location on field, passes to backs vs. passes to receivers, and so on.

– Football Outsiders

DVOA illuminates the nuts and bolts of football, and the Vikings evidently aren’t proficient by the numbers.

Vikings Designate Defensive
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What’s more, one side of the enterprise isn’t dragging the Vikings down. Per the DVOA system, Minnesota ranks 20th in offense, 25th for defense, and 31st in special teams. They’re underwater all over the place but find a way to win ballgames despite the poor marks. The Vikings are 11-0 in one-score games, which is, by far, the most impressive record in NFL history among teams with that many close games.

Now, for the important part — likely something you’re muttering under your breath. Who cares about DVOA? That’s the usual response by a naysayer who instead pivots to the Vikings fancy 12-4 record. And they’re right, to a degree. DVOA really doesn’t matter when a team has 12 wins in 16 games.

a new viking hero
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Yet, here’s the deal — DVOA can be utilized as a predictive statistic, implying how a team will play going forward. If one compares DVOAs of playoff-bound teams, Minnesota obviously scrapes the bottom of the barrel, a foreboding signal for the postseason seven days away. The New York Giants, Minnesota’s likely playoff dance partner, ranks 21st via DVOA. That’s the second-lowest among playoff-bound teams behind, of course, the Vikings.

The top DVOA teams? Buffalo Bills (1), Philadelphia Eagles (2), San Francisco 49ers (3), Dallas Cowboys (4), and Kansas City Chiefs (5).

The Vikings take on the Chicago Bears in Week 18 to close out the regular season. They’re favored by six points.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).