A lot of times, the simplest of numbers can give you an insight into how a team operates and what are its strengths and weaknesses.
For the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, the formula for their successes and their struggles can be found by breaking down their scoring by quarters.
Dallas has almost doubled up its opponents in the first quarter of games, outscoring them 68-35. What makes that important is that most teams have a general script of what they want to do in the first quarter of games. The more points you score is indicative of accomplishing you intended goals. The fewer points you allow has achieved the same goal defensively. Dallas has dominated the first quarter.
The Vikings? Not so much.
Minnesota has been outscored 47-37 in the first quarter. Through 11 games, the Vikings have averaged slightly more than three points in the first 15 minutes of games. Take out the 14 they scored against Houston and you have 23 points in 10 games.
The second quarter has by far been Dallas’ most prolific scoring quarter. They have outscored their opponents 101-65 in the second quarter. When combined with their double-up in the first quarter, on average, the Cowboys have led 15-9 at halftime.
At halftime of 11 games, Minnesota has scored 112 points and allowed 111. Math acumen not required.
The Vikings’ primary selling point is that in the third quarter of games they have outscored their opponents 49-20 – the more important number being the second. Eleven games. Two touchdowns. Two field goals allowed. Not too shabby.
But, factoring in those numbers, on average the Vikings have held a 15-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That is anyone’s game no matter how you look at it.
Dallas has found a way, like the Vikings, to make halftime adjustments. They’ve outscored their opponents 65-33 in the third quarter. Doing the math on your behalf, on average the Cowboys enter the fourth quarter with a 21-12 lead.
No matter how you slice it, on average the Vikings are in a fourth quarter dogfight. The Cowboys have a two-score lead.
If the Vikings are going to knock the Cowboys off their 10-game winning streak, they’re likely going to have to go against what both teams have done to date this season – the Vikings scoring points early and Dallas not having a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter.
Analytics say it won’t happen. That will likely be the biggest challenge the Vikings will face – going against what both teams have done for a large sample size of the season.