There have been some surprise teams this season in the NFL – good and bad – and whenever someone tries to find a rational statistical reason for teams being good or bad, they try to find the one stat that appears to the outlier – something that sticks out for them that doesn’t stick out for anyone else.
Several stats can be red herrings, especially the offensive and defensive rankings. Those ratings are based solely on yards gained or allowed, which can be a misnomer.
Just because Houston has the top-ranked defense doesn’t make them an elite team. Just because New Orleans has the top-ranked offense doesn’t make them a playoff contender.
But one stat that historically is a good guide of whether a team is successful or not – and a stat that makes you wonder how good the Minnesota Vikings could have been had they closed out a couple of games late against Detroit – is the giveaway/takeaway ratio.
If you looked at that statistic alone in 2015 without knowing win-loss records, you could have made a pretty accurate assessment of who the top teams in the NFL were.
Of the top 14 teams by that standard alone, 10 of them represented the 12 teams that made the playoffs, including Carolina (15-1), Kansas City (11-5), Cincinnati (12-4), Arizona (13-3), New England (12-4), Seattle (10-6), Minnesota (11-5), Houston (9-7), Green Bay (10-6), and Washington (9-7).
No other statistic came close to determining who was in or out of the playoffs based solely on that stat.
How about this year? Of the top 12 teams in the giveaway/takeaway rankings, none of them has a losing record and most of them are in position to make the playoffs, including, in order, Oakland (11-3), Kansas City (10-4), Minnesota (7-7), Buffalo (7-7), Atlanta (9-5), Baltimore (8-6), New England (12-2), Miami (9-5), Dallas (12-2), Green Bay (8-6), Pittsburgh (9-5) and Tampa Bay (8-6).
You look at that list and you see teams that, with the exception of the Vikings and Bills, control their own playoff destiny.
In the era of analytics and paralysis by over-analysis of the past data gleaned, it would appear that yet again, all numerologists need do is be given the rankings in giveaway/takeaway ratio, look at the top teams on that list and you will have a pretty good idea of the teams that will be playing on the second weekend of January and beyond.
Unfortunately, the Vikings appear to one of the rare teams on the outside looking in for the 2016 playoffs, but also shows that they’ve done enough in terms of creating turnovers and preventing their own turnovers to be deserving of being in the playoff chase and likely shot themselves in the foot too often to make the postseason.
VIKINGS-PACKERS BY THE NUMBERS
- Minnesota has the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense (32nd rushing, 21st passing) and the third-ranked defense (18th rushing, 3rd passing).
- Green Bay has the 10th-ranked offense (15th rushing, 10th passing) and the 19th-ranked defense (10th rushing, 24th passing).
- The Vikings are averaging 302 yards of offense a game (231 passing, 71 rushing). The Packers are averaging 365 yards a game (257 passing, 108 rushing).
- Minnesota’s defense is allowing 312 yards a game (206 passing, 106 rushing). Green Bay is allowing 355 yards a games (259 passing, 96 rushing).
- The Vikings are third in giveaway-takeaway ratio at plus-9 (22 takeaways, 13 giveaways). The Packers are tied for eighth place at plus-5 (22 takeaways, 17 giveaways).
- Minnesota is 30th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just 18 of 42 possessions (42.9 percent). Green Bay is 13th at 56.9 percent (33 touchdowns on 58 possessions).
- No offense has got into the red zone more often than the Packers.
- The Vikings are 20th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 20 of 36 possessions. The Packers are 28th at 63.2 percent (24 touchdowns on 38 possessions).
- No defense has allowed opponents to get into the red zone less often than the Vikings.
- Green Bay is second in third-down offense, converting on 85 of 184 opportunities (46.2 percent). Minnesota is 21st at 37.6 percent (70 of 186). The league average is 39.7 percent.
- The Vikings are 17th in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 72 of 184 opportunities (39.1 percent). The Packers are 26th at 41.9 percent (72 of 172).
- The Vikings are second in average starting position following kickoffs at the 27.0-yard line – well above the league average of the 24.8-yard line. The Packers are last in opponent starting field position following kickoffs at the 26.7-yard line.
- Aaron Rodgers has four 300-yard passing games. Sam Bradford has one.
- Green Bay has allowed four 300-yard passers this season. Minnesota has yet to allow one.
- The Packers have had 10 100-yard receiving games – four each from Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams and one each from Randall Cobb and Jared Cook. The Vikings have had five – three from Stefon Diggs and two from Adam Thielen.
- The Packers defense has allowed six 100-yard receivers this year. The Vikings have allowed just one.
- The Packers have two 100-yard rushing games – one from Ty Montgomery and one from Eddie Lacy. The Vikings haven’t had a 100-yard rusher all season.
- Both Minnesota and Green Bay have allowed three 100-yard rushers.
- Rodgers is tied for sixth in pass attempts (533), fourth in completions (346), 12th in completion percentage (64.9), sixth in passing yards (3,781), tied for second in touchdown passes (32), tied for ninth in interceptions (7) and fifth in passer rating (100.3).
- Bradford is tied for 17th in pass attempts (469), tied for sixth in completions (336), first in completion percentage (71.6), 20th in passing yards (3,245), tied for 23rd in touchdown passes (14), tied for fourth in interceptions (4) and ninth in passer rating (97.0).
- Rodgers is fifth in fourth-quarter passer rating at 108.5. Bradford is ninth with a rating of 99.3.
- Rogers is fourth in third-down passer rating at 108.8. Bradford is eighth with a rating of 91.6.
- Minnesota’s Jerick McKinnon will be the leading rusher in today’s game with 400 rushing yards, which ranks him 40th in the league. Montgomery leads the Packers with 390 yards, which ranks him 42nd.
- Nelson is tied for seventh in receptions with 82. Diggs leads the Vikings with 80 receptions, which ranks him 10th. Kyle Rudolph is tied for 31st with 66, Adams is 34th with 65, Cobb is tied for 39th with 60 and Thielen is tied for 47th with 56.
- Nelson is eighth in receiving yards with 1,037. Adams is 20th with 922, Diggs is 24th with 874. Thielen is 40th with 758 and Rudolph is 49th with 670.
- Nelson is tied for fifth in scoring among non-kickers with 72 points (12 touchdowns). Adams is tied for 15th with 54 points (nine touchdowns). Matt Asiata and Rudolph are tied for 42nd with 36 points each (six touchdowns).
- Mason Crosby is tied for 12th in scoring among kickers with 109 points. The combination of Blair Walsh and Kai Forbath have scored 92 points, which would put them in a tie for 19th place.
- Nelson is 27th in yards from scrimmage with 1,037 – all receiving. Adams is 40th with 922 – all receiving. Diggs is 44th with 884 – 874 receiving, 10 rushing.
- Green Bay punter Jacob Schum is 27th in punting average at 43.9 yards. Jeff Locke is 29th at 43.4 yards.
- Locke is 19th in net punting average at 39.9 yards. Schum is 23rd at 39.6 yards.
- Marcus Sherels would be second in the league in punt return average at 13.4 yards (including two touchdowns), but he has 17 returns, which is currently one short of having enough to qualify for the league lead.
- Pro Bowler Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return average at 31.5 yards – more than a full yard more than the next closest player and almost three yards more than anyone else with enough returns to qualify.
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is tied for second in interceptions with five. Xavier Rhodes is tied for seventh with four.
- Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter is tied for eighth in sacks with 10½. Everson Griffen and Green Bay’s Nick Perry are tied for 15th with eight. Julius Peppers is tied for 22nd with 7½. Brian Robison is tied for 27th with seven.
- Griffen and Andrew Sendejo are tied for fifth in the league with two defensive fumble recoveries each.