In statistics, a regression toward the mean is the phenomenon where variables sampled at an extreme will likely return closer to the mean when sampled again. For example, the 2022 Minnesota Vikings went 11-0 in one-score games, while this season's Vikings are 0-3 in such matchups.
Like winter, regression is coming for Minnesota, or maybe it has already arrived.
Typically, NFL teams win between 40 to 60 percent of their one-score games. It goes without saying that the ones closer to 60 percent make the playoffs, and the ones closer to 40 tend to not make the playoffs.
Taking a look at last season, playoff teams had an overall record of 76-48 in one-score games for a winning percentage of 61.3, slightly above 60 percent being far above the average of teams from around the league.
The best one-score records of these 2022 playoff teams were as follows:
- Minnesota Vikings - 11-0
- Philadelphia Eagles - 7-1
- Kansas City Chiefs - 7-3
- Los Angeles Chargers - 8-4
- Buffalo Bills - 6-3
- Dallas Cowboys - 5-2
- San Francisco 49ers - 3-1
- Cincinnati Bengals - 5-3
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 6-4
- New York Giants - 7-5
- Baltimore Ravens - 6-5
- Miami Dolphins - 6-5
- Jacksonville Jaguars - 6-5
- Seattle Seahawks - 4-6
Besides the Vikings being a massive outlier in the standings, the two best playoff teams in close games played each other in the Super Bowl, with the Kansas City Chiefs getting the best of the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35, for the crown.
While it certainly stings that Minnesota is currently 0-3, a 13-4 record last year hid a lot of the issues the team has this season.
The defense has struggled to get stops, and allowing more than 250 yards on the ground in Week 2 and over 400 yards through the air in Week 3 is an issue facilitating said regression.
The Vikings made a lot of plays defensively to seal games last year. However, these plays only came after allowing more than 400 yards to offenses such as the New England Patriots, who had a defensive coordinator calling offensive plays, and allowing more than 400 yards to Mike White and the New York Jets.
As soon as Minnesota tight end T.J. Hockenson was tackled short of the sticks to end the Vikings season last year, the regression had begun.
While it is not a guarantee that Minnesota will not win a single one-score game this year, they will likely be around the 40 percent mark. Unfortunately, after starting 0-3, this will probably leave the Vikings with a record around 2-5 in said games, which will most likely see the team missing the playoffs.
This is not a negative outlook for Minnesota as it is the first step to building a sustainable roster and prolonged success for general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensha, head coach Kevin O'Connell, and company.
As fun of a ride 2022 was for the Vikings, this 2023 season will be like leaving the amusement park to get ready for school in the morning.