For a while now I’ve been hearing that the Vikings again have a tough schedule heading into 2013. Many have argued that it is even tougher than it was last year, but having recorded plenty of statistics about that kind of thing over the past few years, I was skeptical. Strictly from the standpoint of wins and losses of every opponent faced in 2012, the NFC North had the toughest schedule around. Detroit was tops among the group, with its opponents averaging wins 56.72% of the time. Green Bay’s schedule was the easiest of the division, still the 14th toughest in the league though at 50.86%. Chicago was 12th toughest with a 51.25% difficulty, and the Vikings fell in at #8, with 52.03% difficulty. The chart below shows the overall rankings of all teams and the difficulty of their schedule.
The teams highlighted in yellow are all the teams that made the playoffs. Notice that the Vikings had the toughest schedule of all these teams, 6 spots higher than the next toughest playoff team’s schedule which belongs to Green Bay.
So what am I getting at? Well, using the same records, I compiled a list of schedule strengths for the upcoming season. Of course this is somewhat ludicrous, knowing that there’s a better chance that a flock of beavers is going to attack the White House than there is of all the teams getting the exact same record as they did a year ago. Some teams got better, some got worse, some thought they could get better by giving ungodly contracts to their best two players. There’s just way too many variables for anyone to make a fully educated adjustment. But, if every team’s W/L record somehow happened to stay exactly the same, here’s how the strength of the 2013 schedules would look:
As you can see, things got slightly softer for the NFC North overall, but the Vikings schedule only got ever so little bit easier. All in all though, it’s practically no different, as it calculates out to be about one extra loss for all 16 games of all 16 (256 games total) opponents we faced. And what does that mean for the upcoming season? Based on these numbers, the Vikings outperformed expectations, winning 10/16 when statistically they should have won 8/16. The same numbers for this year’s schedule say we should win 9/16, but that’s without taking any improvements or the team’s will to succeed into effect.
Knowing that these unknowns are going to help the team out, we should all be able to expect them to return to the playoffs this year, and show the league once again that they should never underestimate the Vikings.