By the Numbers, Vikings Now in Commanding Spot for Playoffs

Even in a Down
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If you thought the Minnesota Vikings were a happy-go-lucky team ravaged by injuries that were just hoping to make the season respectable, it’s time to readjust your expectations.

Not only has Minnesota fundamentally rectified a 1-4 start to 2023, but head coach Kevin O’Connell’s team is also firmly in the driver’s seat to reach the postseason.

By the Numbers, Vikings Now in Commanding Spot for Playoffs

The Vikings bumbled out of the gate in September and October — mainly because of an intense turnover problem — but that lackluster start seems one million miles away. After topping the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints, Minnesota has a clear path to the playoff tournament, and it’s not even remotely a longshot or best-laid plans.

Now in Commanding
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The purple team is flat-out good, so much so that it would take a sizable collapse to miss the postseason afterparty. While it was refreshing to squash five NFC teams consecutively, the Vikings designed advantageous playoff tiebreakers, nudging their postseason probability every step of the way. Minnesota was nearly done after five games, but that era is over.

According to ESPN’s Power Football Index (FPI), the Vikings own an 86.4% probability of reaching the playoffs, the eighth-best odds for any team in football, including both conferences. Six weeks ago, it would’ve been weird to dream about Minnesota in the postseason. Now, it’s the opposite — it would be mind-boggling if it missed the cut.

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How did this happen? The answer is surprisingly simple and twofold.

a) Defense
b) A fixed turnover problem

From Week 1 to 3, the Vikings ranked 26th leaguewide per defensive EPA/Play, politely known as seventh-worst on defense in the NFL. Fast forward to the day after Week 10, and Minnesota owns the sport’s ninth-best defense overall per the same metric.

Aspect of Vikings
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In layperson’s terms, the Vikings defense was basically terrible during the first three weeks and became absolutely marvelous from Weeks 4 to 10. Almost alone, that fixed the Vikings.

Meanwhile, through the first five games, O’Connell and friends fired up 12 fumbles and interceptions gift-wrapped to the opposition. Yet from Weeks 6 to 10, the number shrunk to 5, which is a Top 10 giveaway rate, meaning fewer fumbles and interceptions.

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And the playoff positivity isn’t just an ESPN FPI ordeal. The New York Times playoff simulator assigned the Vikings an 83% postseason probability, as well, after Week 10.

The Vikings are beating the teams they must beat — they were not doing that before — especially NFC foes that may be in the postseason hunt next month, and cleaned up the untidy operations.

If the playoffs began today, Minnesota would travel to Detroit for a date with the Lions.

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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by