Friday, December 7, 2012

Numbers that only Vikings fans care about

This is the Vikings record against NFC North "rivals" the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers since 2006. They've also lost seven straight against the two clubs. This is the worst seven-year stretch the Vikes have had against Chicago and Green Bay since 1961-67, when Minnesota was a wee little expansion franchise – a situation where you'd expect to struggle against two of the NFL's oldest franchises.

Friday morning during a segment of Judd Zulgad's morning radio show on ESPN 1500 with ESPN's NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert, the pair talked briefly about the Vikings struggles with the Bears and Packers. Seifert made the comment that it's been an overall talent issue – the Vikings have been the poorer team, talent-wise, than Green Bay and Chicago and that's why they've lost so many games against them since 2006. I disagree with Seifert on that point. Minnesota's woeful record mostly comes down to one thing – Chicago and Green Bay have had far better quarterbacking than the Vikings have had during that period (that's particularly the case with the Packers). The Packers have had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as their QBs during this period. The Bears have had Jay Cutler under center since 2009. On the other hand, the Vikings have had Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte, Favre, Joe Webb and now Christian Ponder all play at different times against Chicago and Green Bay since 2006. Is it any wonder the Vikings can't beats these teams?

By the way, if head coach Leslie Frazier is fired at the end of this season – something I know would cause many Vikings fans to have one of the best orgasms of their lives – Minnesota's record under his watch against the Bears and Packers will be a big reason why. His teams have yet to beat Chicago or Green Bay ( 0-5 against them, and three of the losses were blowouts), and a head coach isn't going to keep his job if he keeps going 0-2 against divisional opponents. So not only is Sunday's game against Chicago a big one for the Vikings and their playoff hopes, it is a big one for Frazier's head coaching career. If he gets fired in Minnesota, he might never get another chance to be a head coach in the NFL.

That's the Vikings odds of making the playoffs right now, according to Football Outsiders. Quite a fall from those heady days in early October when the Vikes were 3-1 and 4-1 and FO had their odds at making the playoffs at 52.6 per cent. They also released those odds before anybody knew that wide receiver Percy Harvin's season was going to end. Without Harvin over the final four games of the 2012 campaign, the Vikings odds of making the playoffs are probably more like 0.33 per cent.

The number of yards running back Adrian Peterson needs to beat Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. That record has stood for nearly 28 years. For Peterson to get the record he'll have to be on fire even more than he has been of late – 660 yards over four games averages out to 165 yards per game. But if we've learned anything about Peterson this year, it's that it's a mistake to doubt him.

As Peterson chases Dickerson's record one year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee – an injury that's ended many other athletes' careers, I got to thinking yesterday about what he's achieved this season. We've become accustomed to learning – or at least heavily suspecting – that athletes who have done miraculous things (Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, and in a Canadian context, Ben Johnson) did so through illegitimate means. I hope Peterson's remarkable comeback is simply a case of new advances in surgical methods and knee rehab, an unreal work ethic and Krypton DNA.

That's the number of catches Vikings wide receivers other than Harvin have caught in 2012 – a pitiful number. The not-so-fearsome fivesome of Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton have also totaled 813 receiving yards and caught three touchdown passes. And now the Vikes must conjure up a passing game without Harvin.

I thought this was really bad until I looked up the Bears receiving statistics besides Brandon Marshall. Earl Bennett (who won't play Sunday because of a concussion), Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffrey, Eric Weems and Dane Sanzenbacher have between them 60 catches for 690 yards and four touchdowns. The problem, of course, is that Marshall and his 91 catches will play against the Vikings on Sunday. But if they can somehow contain him at the Metrodome (they didn't two weeks ago at Soldier Field), who else is Cutler going to throw to?

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