Commentary

Solving a Minnesota mystery

The Vikings can still make the playoffs, they just need to finish what they've started

Originally Published: September 30, 2011
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider
Adrian PetersonDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesTo fix their second-half struggles, the Vikings need to dial up more carries for Adrian Peterson.

A couple of years ago, then-Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was asked about the statistical progress his defense had made. "I've said this before -- stats are for losers," said Muschamp. Most stats are just an after-the-fact way to explain outcomes, he explained. They can misplace both credit and blame. And he's right; you have to consider all variables. And while numbers alone say there's no way the Minnesota Vikings should be 0-3 right now, the tape isn't far behind. It just depends which half of the game you're watching.

The Vikings may be, over a three-game stretch, the weirdest team in NFL history. That's because they may be the best 0-3 team in NFL history. Better than the 1992 San Diego Chargers, who started 0-4, went 11-1 from then on and cracked the playoffs, or the absurd 1995 Detroit Lions, who started 0-3, climbed to 3-3, dropped to 3-6, then won out to make the playoffs. Only five teams since the merger have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, but the Vikings could be No. 6. Here's why:

Everything we know about football says the Vikings should be 3-0. In the first half of games so far, they've outscored teams a combined 54-7. Don't just dismiss this as some random stat: "But it's a 60-minute game!" It's not. At least not when you've been this good early in games. In NFL history, six other teams have outscored the opposition like this to start the first three games (over 50 points, allowed 7 or fewer). Those teams went a combined 18-0.. The Vikings have posted an almost impossible 0-3 mark.