So now that the Vikings have started the 2011 season off on the wrong foot and everyone, including myself, is predicting 16 more weeks of tears and heartbreak, I thought I would take a closer look at what the first game of season has really meant for the purple.
I started my search in 1983, which I refer to as the “modern era”, because that’s when my six year-old brain caught Vikings fever for the first time, thus, for all I knew, any season before 1983 the players were wearing leather helmets and flying to away games in zeppelins.
So, in the 28 opening day games the Vikings have played since then, they have compiled a record of 15-13. Not overly impressive, but at least it’s on the good side of .500. Now here’s where the hope begins. Of the 13 seasons where the Vikings lost in week one, they still finished the season with a record of .500 or better in 8 times. Therefore, my offensive play calling-questioning friends, the loss to the Chargers last Sunday means there is only a 39% chance the Vikings will finish below .500. And in the NFC, any team 8-8 or above has a shot at the playoffs. (Unless you’re in the NFC West, where 6 wins might punch your ticket.)
It really is too bad the Vikes couldn’t find a way to hold on for victory last week, because if they had, we would all be reserving our playoff tickets. Because in the 15 seasons where they won their first game, they went on to finish .500 or better 13 times, an astonishing 87% success rate. Maybe the reason we get so crazy over week one results is that these last 28 years have conditioned us to expect glorious postseason football whenever the Vikes have started with a win. I guess if there was anyway I could make you feel worse about the loss last week, this paragraph would be it. Let’s move back to reality.
Big deal, you say, so we have a 61% chance that maybe the Vikings can sneak into the playoffs, but they still have a pork chop’s chance in Lambeau of winning even one game, much less the Super Bowl. Hold on there, glass half-emptiers, let’s look at the stats before we say the Vikes can’t win it all this year. Don’t just jump to your pessimistic prognostications before examining some hard, mathematical evidence. To wit: Over the last 28 years, the Super Bowl winning teams have won their opening game 22 times. (Long silence.) Okay, I’ll shut up, the Vikes have no chance to win the Super Bowl this year. I hate statistics. Somebody pass me that half-empty glass of beer so I can forget I even brought it up.