ESPN Lists Vikings Odds For 3 Possible Rematches in NFC Divisional Round

Posted Jan 5, 2018

The Vikings will know their Divisional round opponent in 48 hours or so, as a quartet of NFC teams will duke it out this weekend for the chance to continue their seasons.

Minnesota went 13-3, won the NFC North and earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoff field.

And while it remains to be seen which team will arrive at U.S. Bank Stadium for the game scheduled for 3:40 p.m. (CT) on Jan. 14, ESPN writer Bill Barnwell took a look at how likely each playoff matchup is. He used an ESPN metric, Football Power Index, to calculate the chances of each team advancing.

Of the 12 teams in the playoffs, Minnesota’s FPI ranking is second. Barnwell also used Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), a Football Outsiders metric, in his analysis.

Minnesota’s defense was ranked No. 2 in DVOA, while the Vikings offense was fifth and special teams were 18th.

No matter what happens this weekend, the Vikings will play a team they already faced during the regular season.

Here’s a look at Barnwell’s probabilities for Minnesota’s upcoming playoff opponent:

Rams: 62.3 percent probability of a rematch 

Barnwell’s take

While the Vikings’ defense rightfully came in for plaudits after holding the Rams to a lone touchdown in a 24-7 victory in November, the offense might have deserved more of the credit. For one, a Cooper Kupp fumble near the goal line cost the Rams a likely touchdown. Case Keenum & Co., meanwhile, averaged 6.2 yards per play, generated 27 first downs and produced four drives of 11 or more plays.

The first meeting

The Rams, who are 7th in FPI, are sixth on offense and defense in DVOA and second in that metric on special teams. Los Angeles suffered its second-worst loss of the season in Week 11 when the Rams came to U.S. Bank Stadium. (The Rams’ worst loss was in Week 17 when they rested most of their starters). The Vikings used a team effort in the trenches, rushing for a season-high 171 yards, and the defense limited Los Angeles to a season-low 45 rushing yards.

Saints: 38.1 percent probability of a rematch

Barnwell’s take

The Vikings blew out the Saints in Week 1, but that might as well been in an [alternate] universe. Sam Bradford threw for 346 yards and three scores. Dalvin Cook ran for 127 yards in his NFL debut, while Alvin Kamara turned his 11 touches into a mere 38 yards. [Former Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson got as many carries as Mark Ingram.

The first meeting

New Orleans, the champion of the NFC South, is right behind the Vikings as the Saints are third in FPI. The Saints are second on offense in DVOA, and the metric also has them eighth in defense and 15th in special teams. If the Saints make a return trip to U.S. Bank Stadium, it will have been almost five months since their season-opening matchup. It’s safe to say that both teams have vastly improved since then.

Panthers: 15.8 percent probability of a rematch

Barnwell’s take

Carolina won the matchup between these two in Week 14 by breaking the Case Keenum formula. He had thrown five interceptions and taken just nine sacks in his first 11 games with the Vikings, but the Panthers picked off Keenum twice and sacked him six times in their 31-24 victory. The Vikings were also missing a pair of starters in standout rookie center Pat Elflein and right tackle Mike Remmers.

The first meeting

As Barnwell mentioned above, uncharacteristic mistakes led to a Minnesota loss as the Vikings saw their eight-game win streak come to an end. Carolina is ranked ninth in FPI, and will be at New Orleans in the Wild Card round. The Panthers rank 17th offensively in DVOA, and are seventh on defense and sixth on special teams. Carolina has plenty of playoff experience. The Panthers have been in the playoffs four of the past five postseasons.