By now, we’ve all about the heard the importance of winning today’s game with the Green Bay Packers, but it would also mark a milestone that, in the modern era of the NFL would be a virtual guarantee that the Minnesota Vikings will be playing in the postseason in some capacity, whether as NFC North champions or as a wild card.
Since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990, plenty of teams have started a season with a record of 8-2 or better through 10 games. Only two of those teams have started 8-2 and missed the playoffs – the 1993 Miami Dolphins and the 1995 Oakland Raiders.
Older fans may remember the Dolphins’ collapse. Thanks to one of the most bone-headed plays in NFL history on a Thanksgiving Day when snow came through the hole in the roof of Texas Stadium, Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett inexplicably tried to pounce on a blocked field goal in the closing seconds. It turned a dead ball into a live ball, was recovered by Miami and they went on to a 16-14 win. It improved Miami to 9-2. But, they lost their last five games, finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
Two years later, Oakland had a similar collapse. They started off 8-2 only to lose their final six games, finishing 8-8.
That was 20 years ago. In all the seasons since, if teams started 8-2, they end up playing in January. Every team that has reached that milestone has finished off the deal and advanced to the postseason.
The focus today is beating the Green Bay Packers and taking control of the NFC North. But, if you look at the bigger picture, if the Vikings win and improve their record to 8-2, they have their ticket virtually punched for the playoffs, making a win today even more important than simply taking out the Packers.
VIKINGS-PACKER BY THE NUMBERS
- Minnesota has the 29th-ranked offense (1st rushing, 31st passing) and the ninth-ranked defense (15th rushing, 8th passing).
- Green Bay is 21st offensively (16th rushing, 22nd passing) and 23rd on defense (24th rushing, 21st passing).
- The Vikings are averaging 329 yards a game (182 passing, 147 rushing). The Packers are averaging 344 yards a game (236 passing, 108 rushing).
- Defensively, Minnesota is allowing 337 yards a game (228 passing, 109 rushing). Green Bay is allowing 372 yards a game (256 passing, 116 rushing).
- The Packers are fourth in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-7 (13 takeaways, 6 giveaways). The Vikings are 12th at plus-2 (11 takeaways, 9 giveaways).
- No team in the league has fewer giveaways than the Packers. The Vikings are one of five teams that haven’t had 10 giveaways.
- Green Bay is tied for sixth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 18 of 28 possessions (64.3 percent). Minnesota is 29th at 40.7 percent (11 touchdowns on 27 possessions).
- Defensively, the Vikings are fourth in red zone efficiency, allowing touchdowns on just 11 of 25 opponent possessions (44 percent). The Packers are 17th at 54.8 percent (17 of 31).
- Green Bay is tied for 18th on third-down offense, converting 40 of 110 opportunities (36.4 percent). Minnesota is 23rd at 35.1 percent (40 of 114). The league average is 38.6 percent.
- The Vikings are third in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 37 of 115 chances (32.2 percent). The Packers are 17th at 39.1 percent (50 of 128).
- Minnesota is first in average starting position following kickoffs at the 23.7-yard line. Green Bay is ninth with an average starting position of the 22.3-yard line. The league average is the 21.4-yard line.
- Aaron Rodgers has three 300-yard passing games, including topping 300 in his last two games. Teddy Bridgewater has one 300-yard passing game.
- Green Bay has allowed two 300-yard passers. Minnesota has allowed just one.
- The Packers and Vikings have both had two 100-yard receiving games. Both of Minnesota’s have come from Stefon Diggs. Green Bay’s Randall Cobb and James Jones each have one 100-yard receiving game.
- Both teams have allowed two 100-yard receivers.
- Adrian Peterson has five 100-yard receiving games, including each of the last three games. James Starks has the only 100-yard rushing game for Green Bay.
- Both the Vikings and Packers have allowed two 100-yard rushers.
- Rodgers hasn’t been nearly as dominant as he has been in previous seasons, although his numbers are still very good in key respects. He is 14th in pass attempts (313), 12th in receptions (198), 21st in completion percentage (63.3), 15th in yards (2,270), tied for third in touchdown passes (21), tied for first in interceptions (3) and is fifth in passer rating (103.4).
- Bridgewater is tied for 25th in attempts (254), 23rd in completions (163), 17th in completion percentage (64.2), 26th in yards (1,810), tied for 29th in TD passes (7), tied for 11th in interceptions (6) and 23rd in passer rating (84.6).
- Rodgers is fourth in fourth-quarter passer rating at 111.3. Bridgewater is 22nd at 87.0.
- Rodgers is 14th in third-down passer rating at 86.9. Bridgewater is 15th at 86.4.
- Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 961 yards – 227 yards more than second-place Chris Johnson. Starks leads the Packers with 376 yards, which ranks him 30th in the league.
- Cobb leads the Packers with 45 receptions, which ties him for 26th place in the league. Diggs leads the Vikings with 30 receptions, which ties him for 71st.
- Cobb leads the Packers in receiving yards with 529, which ranks 34th in the league. Diggs leads the Vikings with 507 yards, which ranks 38th.
- Jones leads the Packers in points among non-kickers with 36 (six touchdowns), which ties him for 19th place. Peterson leads the Vikings with 30 points (five TDs), which has him tied for 31st.
- Blair Walsh is tied for fourth in scoring among kickers with 82 points. Mason Crosby is tied for 20th with 59 points.
- Walsh is tied for 12th in the league in touchbacks with 28. Crosby is tied for 14th with 26.
- Peterson is third in yards from scrimmage with 1,099 (961 rushing, 138 receiving). Starks leads the Packers with 597 yards (376 rushing, 223 receiving), which ranks 50th in the league.
- Green Bay’s Tim Masthay is 27th in punting average at 43.5 yards. Jeff Locke is 31st at 41.8 yards.
- Masthay is 21st in net punting average at 39.0 yards. Locke is 26th at 38.4 yards.
- Marcus Sherels is seventh in the league in punt return average at 10.9 yards. The Packers are one of six teams that don’t have enough returns to qualify for the league lead.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is third in the league in kickoff return average at 28.4 yards. Only 16 teams have enough kick returns to qualify for the league lead and Green Bay isn’t one of them.
- Terrence Newman leads the Vikings with two interceptions, which ties him for 24th in the league. Four Packers are also tied with Newman with two interceptions – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sam Shields, Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall.
- Everson Griffen is tied for 16th sacks with 5.5. Julius Peppers leads Green Bay with 5.5 sacks, which also ties him for 16th place.