Prediction Machine says Vikings miss playoffs

The Vikings are expected to be better in 2014, but according to computer simulations not good enough to make the playoffs.

You know the NFL season is just around the corner when the website runs its annual computer simulation of the coming season. The Prediction Machine, the brainchild of Paul Bessire, uses multiple data points to simulate games and they take it pretty seriously – running 50,000 potential season scenarios.

Given that much of the information is significantly based off the previous season, certain results are predictable despite history telling us otherwise. The 50,000 simulations project that Denver and Seattle will meet again in next February’s Super Bowl. History says, “Not so fast, my friend.”

The only time in Super Bowl history that the same two teams have met twice in a row was following the 1992 and 1993 seasons when Dallas beat Buffalo. Since then, it’s been a much different story. The last time even one team went to back to back Super Bowls was New England in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In the decade since, every Super Bowl matchup has been unique.

For Vikings fans, that can be seen as the good news. Tomorrow is a new day.

The bad news for the Vikings is that, according to 50,000 season simulations, they’ve got a snowball’s chance in July of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy – a 0.5 percent chance to be exact. That works out to, of the 50,000 simulations, someone other than the Vikings wins the Super Bowl 49,750 times.

It isn’t all bad in the world of computer simulations. At the same time, it isn’t good.

Based on the average of all 50,000 simulations, the Vikings finished with 7.4 wins. In fact, they’re listed as one of four teams that could be a pleasant surprise – a list that includes the Giants, Texans and Browns. But, when you break it down game-by-game through all of the averages of the simulations, the Vikings will finish 4-12.

According to the average projection point total per game, the only games the Vikings will win is Week 4 vs. Atlanta, Week 7 at Buffalo, Week 14 vs. the Jets and Week 17 vs. Chicago.

There are some other bold predictions being made by the massive amount of simulated games. Just as the numbers project the Vikings being a surprise team – despite the average that screams 4-12 – four teams that often came out poorly are the Bears, Cowboys, Panthers and Chiefs.

The data is interesting to say the least. In the AFC, Denver and New England earn first-round byes, Cincinnati and Indianapolis win their divisions and San Diego and Houston are the wild cards. Based on last year’s numbers, all AFC four division champs will repeat and the only 2013 playoff team to miss the dance will be Kansas City.

At last check, Alex Smith is still their quarterback and the offensive line is in major flux. You didn’t need a computer to figure this recipe for disaster out.

The numbers say three of the four teams in last year’s divisional playoffs and the Broncos will once again defeat the Patriots at home. In fact, the home team is projected to win every game.

In the NFC, the projections have Seattle and New Orleans getting byes and Green Bay and the Giants winning their divisions. The wild cards will be San Francisco and Philadelphia. In all, five 2013 playoff teams return to the postseason, with the new entry being the Giants. Again, the home team wins every game until the NFC Championship Game, when the Seahawks go on the road to say “We Dat!” to Saints fans.

What do we make of the numbers? A lot of unconventional things have to happen. Throughout the playoffs, the numbers say that the home team will win nine of 10 games – and the one home team that loses will lose by one point.

To put that in perspective, last year three road teams won in the wild card round and the only one that survived (Indianapolis) overcame a 38-10 deficit in the third quarter to advance. Nothing is predictable in the NFL. No. 6 seeds win Super Bowls. Give a team on a roll a chance and magic can happen.

Computers can’t simulate that.

If anything, the numbers should get Vikings fans sparked up. They’re saying the team will be better, but not quite good enough.

If 50,000 new-school computer simulations can create old-school bulletin board material, mission accomplished.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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