Always Gonna Give You Up, Always Gonna Let You Down

Oct 4, 2023 11:13:55 GMT -6 22 Replies
We are not allowed to have nice things! I know they finally got a win on Sunday, but I still do not feel good about this team (maybe that will change after this breakdown?). The defense played really well when it needed to on Sunday, the offense looked its worst yet, and that is with us not even mentioning weeks 2 and 3. On that fun note, welcome to our first quarter breakdown and look ahead. As with the previous breakdown after week 1 (find that here), we will look at some key analytics metrics for this Vikings team, and how that compares to the rest of the league. The main metric we will look at today is EPA, but I do mix in some success rate data, yards per play, and net air yards.

As the eye test tells you, there is some good and some bad with this team. There are things that give us hope for a turnaround, while others would tell you this is going to be a very long disappointing season. As someone mentioned in the last thread, the key to EPA and even Success Rate data is knowing they are more overall efficiency metrics, and not an end all be all to say if a single player is good or not. That being said, if the team is seeing a big spike in these metrics when targeting or running through this player, that means they are probably adding something of benefit to the team.

EPA by Player – I am starting to think JJ might be good.

To start, let’s check in on the EPA for individual players on offense. As you can see below, JJ is still leading the pack, and it isn’t even close. When this offense targets JJ, good things happen (shocking I know!). JJ leads the team with 22.19 in total EPA and a 0.472 EPA/Play. That total EPA is 9th overall for the entire league right now, and his EPA/Play is 16th for all players with at least 20 plays. As we saw after week 1, Addison is pretty dang effective in this offense as well. So much so, I would say it is time to incorporate him a lot more. He is not only second on the team in total EPA despite being 3rd in targets and 4th in total touches, but he is top 20 in the entire NFL (20 play min) for EPA/Play. Put this in the small sample size bin, but Akers looked and performed great in his limited action on Sunday. Only 7 plays, but those 7 plays already have him with the 3rd highest total EPA on the team, and 3rd for EPA/Play. I would anticipate him being worked into the offense more and more as time goes on.


You will notice that Mattison is still a bottom 3 skill player on the team for EPA, however, below is a breakdown by week to show you the improvement. Mattison had about as bad of a week 2 as you could ask for (-8.89 total EPA), but has followed that up with 2 consecutive weeks of positive EPAs. His 0.05 EPA/Play the last 2 weeks would rank in the top 10 for all RBs with at least 30 rushes this season. This is not to say he is a game breaker and a clear RB1, but he has turned a corner after week 2 (partially the OL as well), and should continue to help push this offense forward.

Shifting to the QBs, I wanted to circle back to the EPA/Play by down and quarter for Kirk and the QBs the team has played. First you will see the EPA/Play by Down chart. Things have started to level off a bit for Kirk on a down by down basis, however, he still continues to drop off on 3rd downs. Not to pour salt in the wound, but not only is his performance on 3rd downs worse than any other down, it is actually worse than it was in week 1. In week 1 Kirk’s EPA/Play on 3rd downs was -0.037. Now after 4 weeks it is -0.324 per play. This ranks as the 9th worst EPA/Play for any QB on 3rd down (minimum of 20 plays).

Now let’s look at QB play by quarter. On second thought, maybe we skip the 1st quarter? This is a theme for the entire offense, but it is staggering to see. The biggest reason for this is the turnovers, but even if you remove the turnovers, Cousins (and the entire passing offense) still has a -0.386 EPA/Play in the 1st quarter compared to 0.579, 0.188, and 0.258 EPA/Play in the 2nd through 4th quarters. It is great to see the offense and Kirk rebound in the 2nd quarter, but they really need to sit down and figure out their 1st quarter woes if this team truly wants to turn their season around. Putting that -1.169 EPA/Play in the 1st quarter into perspective, it is the worst mark in the entire league for all QBs with at least 20 total snaps. The next closest is Pickett at -0.968/play, and only 5 QBs total have an EPA/Play of -0.5 or worse in the 1st quarter. Compare this to Cousins coming in at 6th best in all other quarters combined (+0.197). Purdy is #1 on the list with a +0.342 EPA/Play. Come on KOC and Kirk, let’s figure this 1st quarter thing out!

Team EPA – The RedZone is a bloodbath.

Now we will shift our focus to EPA for the team as a whole. The first thing I wanted to look at was the EPA for the offense when it is in the RedZone vs when it is not. The results are staggering. Below you can see a chart for the entire NFL showing each team’s offensive EPA/play when they are in the RedZone and when they are not. For these types of charts, you always want to be in the top right section. The further right the logo, the higher the EPA/Play for RedZone plays, the higher the logo, the higher the EPA/Play for non-RedZone plays. Pretty much, if a team is in the top right box, they have a pretty good and consistent offense no matter where they are on the field. If they are in the bottom left box, they have a consistently bad offense. The Vikings, as you can see, are in the top left box. This means their offense when anywhere outside of the RedZone is pretty good (around top 10 overall), but their offense when in the RedZone is bad. They actually have the worst RedZone offense in the entire NFL on an EPA/Play basis.

I wanted to then see how the team did on the opponent’s side of the field but not in the RedZone. The below chart shows the EPA/Play while in the RedZone, and when they are between the opponents 21 and midfield. This is even more of an eye opener than the previous chart to me. The Vikings have a top 4 offense when on the opponent’s side of the field, just not in the RedZone. Top 4! Then they get inside the 20 and everything falls apart.

Just for reference as well, below is the regular EPA/Play chart you will find on the internet showing the offense and defense EPA/Play with tiers. This is a useful tool to show discrepancies between a team’s offense and defense, and their overall EPA ranking across the NFL. Once again, the further right and higher on the chart a team is, the better. You can see that the Vikings are pretty middle of the pack for both offense and defense. They, along with about half the NFL, are in that fringe 3rd to 4th tier of teams. The Bills, 49ers, Dolphins, and Cowboys are clear and away the top tier of teams after 4 weeks in the NFL. That leaves the Giants, Bears, Steelers, Jets, and Bengals to bring up the rear. The good for this with the Vikings is the defense has been holding its own, and the offense has its moments. If the offense can get things together in the 1st quarter and the RedZone, they have the potential to be in the top 2 tiers.

Success Rates – Did you forget what you did in the 2nd?

This team just cannot stay consistent for 60 mins. Below is a breakdown of success rates for the offense by quarter. As we saw with the EPA data, the 1st quarter is rough for this offense. They are only successful on 32% of their plays, which is the 5th worst rate in the NFL for the 1st quarter. Compare that to the 2nd quarter where over 62% of all plays were successful. That comes in as the single best rate in the NFL, beating out the likes of Miami (60.7%), Houston (60.5%), the Chargers (58.5%), and Kansas City (57.1%). Things don’t stay that high in the 2nd half (39.76% total success rate), and fall back to the 8th lowest success rate of any team in the NFL.

On the defensive side, they are much more consistent, albeit not great. While they are really good in the 1st quarter against opposing offenses, they then show their true form of being an okay but still not good defense. The 34.3% success rate in the 1st quarter by the defense is the 6th best rate in the NFL. However, their 2nd through 4th quarter rate of 53.1% is the 2nd worst in the NFL, with only Denver being worse at 54.4%.

Lets circle back and look at success rates for individual players when they are targeted or run the ball. Some small changes from week 1, but overall, nothing too crazy. JJ is still leading the way with a 66% success rate when targeted, TJ is the next closest at 58.1%. That is a fairly significant improvement for TJ from his 44.4% success rate in week 1. The main takeaway from this is KJ is still struggling, and the offense really needs to shift focus to the big 3 of JJ, TJ and Addison. KJ still has a role in this offense, but as we have seen the last couple weeks, Addison should be that #2 WR right now.

Yards/Play – Wait, are the Vikings actually really good?

A stat I wanted to look at more this go around than I did after week 1 was yards per play. This metric can be a pretty good indicator of how good a team is/can be. In-particular, if your team can gain more yards per play on offense than it gives up on defense, watch out. Right now, after 4 weeks, the NFL has 14 teams with a positive number in the offensive yards/play gained over the defense’s yards/play allowed. There are only 7 teams who are gaining at least 0.5 yards/play more than they are giving up, and the Vikings are one of them. The Vikings actually come in at 6th overall in net Yards/Play gained, sitting at +0.9 yards/play. The top 10 teams are listed below.

The Vikings sitting at #6 overall and a +0.9, is a big improvement compared to last season. Last year, the Vikings finished the regular season at -0.41 net yards/play, despite gaining over 5.5 yards/play on offense. The big reason for them finishing 24th in this metric last year was easily the defense. They gave up the 3rd most yards per play, behind only the Bears and Lions (NFC North has some bad defenses!). To help show how important this metric can be, the top 5 teams in the 2022 regular season were KC, PHI, BUF, SF, and MIA (3 of these 5 teams played on championship weekend). The top 4 teams all netted over 1 yard/play more on offense than they gave up on defense last year. The bottom 5 teams were PIT, LAR, ARI, CHI, and HOU with an average of -0.823 net yards/play (4 of these 5 teams were picking in the top 6).

To put all of these numbers in one chart, below is a similar tier chart as the EPA/Play one above. The further right, the better the offense, the higher on the chart the better the defense. You will notice, the Vikings easily fall in that second tier of teams for this stat. They are middle of the road in defensive yards/play allowed, but being a top 5 team in yards gained per play pushes them up the chart quite a bit.

Air Yards – Keep pushing it down the field!

Finally, I wanted to look at air yards for this Vikings offense. Air Yards are a metric that measures how far past the line of scrimmage a pass travels in the air before reaching the receiver. In other words, it helps to clear up some of the YAC noise you can see (i.e. the Justin Fields preseason passing issue) in passing yards. YAC is a great thing, but it is not nearly as consistent and reliable as just plain passing the ball deep.

Looking at Kirk’s average air yards per attempt so far this season, we can see he is trying to push the ball down the field. Minnesota, as a team, ranks 11th in average air yards per passing play, throwing it 7.58 yards down the field. The top teams are GB and PHI both averaging over 9 air yards per pass play. Bringing up the rear are the Cowboys and Giants at less than 5.5 air yards per play. The average for the entire NFL right now is 7.17 air yards.

I wanted to take this to the next level, so I compared the air yards to the yards needed for a first down. For example, if it is 3rd and 7 and Kirk throws the ball 6 yards past the LOS, that is a net air yard of -1, regardless of the outcome of the play. Averaging that across all 167 pass plays the Vikings have had so far, Kirk is throwing just 0.635 yards short per play (106 total yards). This ranks 5th in the entire league with only 1 team being positive. That team would be Green bay at +0.599 per play. For comparison, the Vikings were 18th last season at -1.11 net air yards when throwing for an average of 7.49 air yards per pass play.

Below is a breakdown of this stat by down to help explain what is happening. Overall, the team is doing a good job of pushing the ball down the field. They are even better at it on 3rd downs this year compared to last. Last year Kirk threw the ball 7.92 yards in the air on 3rd downs when they needed 7.44 on average (+0.48). This year, he is throwing the ball 9.44 yards in the air compared to needing just 6.2 (+3.24, 3rd best in the league). As you can see in the chart below, the net air yards per attempt is pretty low on 1st and 2nd down. This is not surprising, and is actually expected. On average, a team is rarely going to air it out on those 2 downs because they know they still have more plays to get the 1st down. The big thing is making sure on 3rd and 4th down you are at least giving your receivers a chance to get the 1st down by just catching the ball. You don’t want to have to rely on them getting an extra 3 or 4 yards after the catch to get the 1st down (i.e. 4th and 8 in the playoffs and throwing 5 yards short).

Will the real Vikings please stand up?

The more and more I dig through these metrics and watch the games, the more confused I am about what this team is. There are times the offense is hitting on all cylinders and they look like nothing can stand in their way. Then other times they go what feels like an eternity without getting a single 1st down. Same could be said about the defense, in it has some really really good moments and stretches, and then some times where they look like toddlers playing against grown-ups. The turnovers, in-particular on the goal line, have played a big part in the losses. After all, if you take away the 4 goal line turnovers and make them all touchdowns, this Vikings offense moves from 16th in PPG (22.5) to tied for 5th with 29.5 PPG. We can’t go back and change history like that, but it shows this offense can compete with anyone if they show up and stay focused. These next 4 games are a big test with 2 Super Bowl favorites and 2 division games.

What’s next?

Here is a quick look at the current EPA and Success Rates for the next 4 opponents on the Vikings schedule. Some obviously better teams in KC and SF, a fairly even team in GB, and a vastly inferior team in CHI.

Home Against Kansas City | 10/8/2023 | 3:25pm

Of the next 4 games, this is the one I have a weird feeling about. Something in me is saying the Vikings might just pull off the upset and shock the NFL. The Chiefs aren’t playing like the Super Bowl winning Chiefs just yet, but they are still pretty dang good. The Vikings defense has played well overall, outside some rough run defense against Philly and forgetting Keenan Allen is pretty good. I just have no clue what to expect. I am going to assume KC and Mahomes show up to play, and win this one by taking an early lead and holding off the Vikings surge late.

Bold Prediction: Addison is the leading receiver for the Vikings.

LOSS KC 27 – MIN 21

At Chicago | 10/15/2023 | 12:00pm

If the Vikings cannot win this game, just waive the white flag now and we can all go home. This Chicago team has no direction and is really struggling on both sides of the ball. Barring injury, if the Vikings don’t win this game by double digits there needs to be a serious conversation about what isn’t working.

Bold Prediction: Justin Fields is sacked 4+ times.

WIN MIN 28 – CHI 13

Home Against San Francisco | 10/23/2023 | 7:15pm

Why did I pick this game as the first game I am going to attend in person? This one will be a beating by the 49ers. This 49ers team is stacked and built to beat up on teams like the Vikings. They have the DL to make any offense screech to a halt in the run game and pass game. It will take an otherworldly performance by the OL and Kirk to beat this SF team. I hope beyond all hope I am wrong on this, but of all the games left on the Vikings schedule this is the one I feel most confident in my pick.

Bold Prediction: Kirk throws for less than 200 yards, and has multiple turnovers.

LOSS SF 28 – MIN 17

At Green Bay | 10/29/2023 | 12:00pm

This is the true litmus test of this quarter of the season. Green Bay and Minnesota have similar feels about them. Both have middle of the pack defenses from an EPA standpoint, while they have solid offenses, albeit a bit hit or miss from time to time. If this one was in Minnesota, it is an easy win for the Vikings. This being in GB has me questioning if the Vikes can pull it off. It should be a close game, and I won’t be shocked if it becomes a shootout.

Bold Prediction: JJ goes off for 175+ yards

WIN MIN 27 – GB 24

With all of this I have the Vikings at 3-5 after 8 weeks. Not great, but also could be a lot worse. If the team solves some of its RedZone issues on offense, they could easily win 3 of these 4 games. However, if the offense still disappears from time to time and the defense struggles again, they might only win 1 of these games. There is a lot to be determined for this season, but these next 4 games will tell us a lot of what we can expect in the second half of the season. I will be back after the Green Bay game (or sooner if something truly crazy happens) for another breakdown. As always, if you have any metrics you would like me to look into more, send them along. I love doing these deep dives, and am always open to new ideas. Hopefully, next time I can dig into the defense a bit more and give them some love (hopefully not hate). TF

All data exported from the NFLVerse in RStudio.

Always Gonna Give You Up, Always Gonna Let You Down


salamander: Not feeling good unless we can find a QB. Haven't had a great one in a looooooong time. Feb 22, 2024 13:43:06 GMT -6
Reignman: March 11th, 2024 will live in history as Kirk Cousins Independence Day *cheerleader* Mar 11, 2024 16:34:20 GMT -6
salbrecht: Why can Pittsburg sign Russel Wilson fo 1.2 million and we get Sam Darnold for 10 million?? Mar 13, 2024 18:31:25 GMT -6
Reignman: when you put it like that, it's a real head scratcher, but this franchise is all about their precious culture, so I imagine they passed on a guy like Russ over something silly like that ... Darnold will have a big smile when he's throwing all the INT's Mar 14, 2024 17:44:47 GMT -6
shandman: If I am NE, I seriously consider getting Justin Fields and roll with Fields/Brisset this year.

For Vikings to actually pull this off they probably have to trade #11, #23 and 2025 first rounder. In return, they hopefully get #3 overall this year and NE's
Mar 15, 2024 19:29:01 GMT -6
glenwo2: Saying that Darnold will have a big smile when he's throwing all the INT's is quite the Take, Reignman. Mar 16, 2024 20:17:05 GMT -6
Nemesis: Good grief....first I hear....and then I hear...I think I better go back to being gone. *woot* ??? Mar 22, 2024 15:24:17 GMT -6
Norseman: You were gone? Mar 22, 2024 22:30:40 GMT -6
Nemesis: I'm a long gone daddy Mar 23, 2024 9:39:00 GMT -6
glenwo2: Norseman is Nemesis' Daddy! You heard it here first, folks. Mar 25, 2024 12:26:17 GMT -6
glenwo2: I'm kidding of course, Nemesis. :) Mar 25, 2024 12:27:05 GMT -6
Norseman: How do you know that it isn't true? Mar 25, 2024 14:28:23 GMT -6
glenwo2: Because Nemesis is the Mod and I'm just a punk rookie acting like a goofball. Mar 25, 2024 16:57:35 GMT -6
Nemesis: Plus glenwo2 is probably my dad, he just likes messing with me from the beyond. Mar 26, 2024 17:13:40 GMT -6
Reignman: Oh great, Nemesis believes in ghosts now too? Did ghost dad remember his name or only the first initial after you recited the alphabet? Apr 1, 2024 22:17:26 GMT -6
Nemesis: We agreed before he died that he would use the name "glenwo" and contact me on the PP shoutbox, but the "2" has me a bit confused. Did I miss his first attempt at contact? Apr 5, 2024 8:22:45 GMT -6
glenwo2: Well glenwo1 was busy that day.... Apr 6, 2024 3:01:11 GMT -6
Nemesis: This is amazing. That's exactly what he told me he would say! :'( Apr 13, 2024 16:48:32 GMT -6
slidell: Sell out and do what it takes to get Daniels.Mccarthy and Maye are Ponders waiting to happen Apr 22, 2024 14:37:23 GMT -6
SiteWolf: What about Daniels separates him that much from Maye? His old team didn't whine when he left ASU, his frame as it is right now will struggle to stay healthy with his playing is he really the better prospect? Apr 24, 2024 13:47:01 GMT -6
Shout as:
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Strikethrough
  • Link
  • Insert Smiley
0/256 Send Cancel
© 2022 Purple Pain Forums

Purple Pain Forums is an independent fan website and not associated with the Minnesota Vikings or the National Football League (NFL). The content posted by individuals on this website reflect their personal opinions and in no way reflect the views of the Minnesota Vikings, NFL, or associated properties. Purple Pain Forums and its affiliates are not responsible for any content posted by our users as it is the property of the poster.