The Dark (and Light) Side of the Moon - Post BYE Breakdown

Dec 7, 2023 15:39:36 GMT -6 23 Replies
Wow! What a few weeks this has been. Dobbs takes this team to new heights, only to come crashing back down to earth against the Bears of all teams. I am sure most of you have seen the chart online, but the fact the Vikings have been the unluckiest team in the NFL this season and still have 6 wins is fitting. A lot of high highs and some low lows this season, all leading to a crazy offseason next year. In this breakdown we will look back to see how Dobbs has done with this team compared to when Kirk was still running the show. I also want to look forward to the final 5 games of the season and try to find some areas this team has an advantage over their opponents. If you have missed any of the previous breakdowns you can find them all here: Week 1 | Week 4 | Week 8.

EPA by Player – Powell is WR3

Diving back in on EPA by player and there are not a lot of changes at the top. Addison, TJ, and JJ still lead the pack. The biggest addition is now seeing Dobbs (as a runner) pop up into the top 5 for total EPA. Not only is he a top 5 in total EPA, but he is 2nd behind only JJ in EPA/Play if you remove any players with 5 or fewer touches. There is no denying that Dobbs is pretty great when he decides to run. The other thing of note is how Brandon Powell continues to be in the top 5 for the team. Not only is he the #3 WR from a total EPA and EPA/Play standpoint, but it is not even close when comparing him to Osborn. Powell is averaging 40 times more in EPA/Play than Osborn, and only has 16 fewer touches. Both players are free agents after this season, but if the team wants to resign one, Powell is the clear and obvious choice as of right now.

On to the bad. First, Mattison continues to be BAD for the team. Not only is he the worst player on the team from a total EPA standpoint (by a MILE!), he is the 5th worst runner in the entire league for total EPA, and 3rd worst in EPA/Play (min 125 rushes). This holds true if you look at just the last 5 weeks as well. He is 6th worst in total EPA, and 3rd worst in EPA/Play amongst runner with at least 50 touches since week 9. I hate to say it, but the Alexander Mattison experiment was a dud. Especially considering Ty Chandler is a top 5 skill player on the team in total EPA. In fact, Chandler is a top 20 RB for total EPA, and top 10 in EPA/Play for all RBs with at least 30 carries this season. I know his pass protection is lacking, but if you give him some time and reps at it, hopefully he can improve. Plus, he is so much better in the running game you have to use him more.

Now we are going to talk about the REALLY bad. Josh Dobbs as a passer is just not good at all. Currently, Josh Dobbs has the 4 worst total EPA and EPA/Play for all QBs with at least 200 pass attempts this season. This obviously includes his time with Arizona with lesser weapons and offensive play calling. However, if I adjust to only look at QBs with at least 100 pass attempts since week 9, he is 5th worst in EPA/Play and 6th worst in total EPA. This is not ideal considering the talent surrounding him on the team. I know KOC went with Dobbs, and I understand why, but based on these metrics it feels like Mullens or even Hall might be a better option. In fact, I went to look at the week 9 stats for all QBs to see how Hall did in his limited playing time. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT! Hall had the highest EPA/Play of any passer in week 9 at 0.816 EPA/Play. Now he only threw 6 passes, but completed 5 of them for 78 yards and was starting to get into a groove before the injury. I know this could easily turn back into a pumpkin with Hall after another quarter or two of play, but call me crazy in saying I want to see more from him before the season is done.

Team EPA – This Defense is Legit

Now let’s look at EPA for the team as a whole. First, I wanted to pull the basic offense vs defense EPA chart to see where the Vikings sit. As you can see in the first chart below, the Vikings continue to be middle of the pack in offensive EPA/Play, however they are officially a top 10 defense, and getting ever closer to a top 5 one. We have seen this defense continue to grow and shine as the season has gone along. In the second chart below, I split their first 6 games and their last 6 games on defense. Your Minnesota Vikings have a top 4 defense from an EPA/Play standpoint in the last 7 weeks of football! They were a middle of the pack defense the first 6 weeks, but have really shown what they can be in the last 7 weeks. The 4th best overall defensive EPA/Play allowed in the entire league. The only teams better were the Dolphins (-0.134), Ravens (-0.128), and Jets (-0.110) compared to the Vikings at -0.093 EPA/Play allowed.

If you remember from my previous breakdowns, the offense came to a halt when it reached the RedZone early on this season. Well, time to check in and see if that has improved since Dobbs took over. First off, on the overall chart for the whole season (1st chart below) you can see the Vikings are still a bottom 7-10 team in the RedZone for the season as a whole. Breaking this down by with Kirk and without Kirk, there has been some improvement. The 2nd chart below shows the EPA/Play in the RedZone in weeks 1-8 left to right, and weeks 9-13 up and down. You can see that the Vikings had the 3rd worst EPA/Play in the RedZone in the first 8 weeks of the season. Since then, they are right smack dab in the middle of the league. Obviously, you want that to be higher, but the fact it has improved that much since Kirk was injured is a big reason they won even the 2 games they did. This also shows the benefit of a mobile QB in the RedZone and their ability to just escape and make something out of nothing.

Success Rates – Stay Aggressive in the 4th KOC!

Moving on to success rates for the individual players and the team as a whole. JJ still clear and away the leader for the team despite not playing in 7 weeks. After that, here comes Powell! Only 39 targets, but 22 of those targets have resulted in a successful play. This puts Powell 44th among all RB, TE, and WRs so far this season with at least 35 targets/touches. Addison has slowed a bit since week 8, which isn’t a big shocker considering no more Kirk, and teams have focused on him with JJ out. He is still really good, but he is not quite ready to take on that WR1 role for the team. There are 39 players with at least 100 rushes so far this season. Of those 39 players, Mattison is 31st in success rate. Another feather in the cap of him no longer being the lead RB1 for this team. He has a role, but it is not as the main runner all 3 downs.

The success rate by quarter for the Vikings offense and the opposing offense continues to be a fun chart to look at. This team just has not been good in the 4th quarter on offense. The defense has evened things out and keeps each team under 50% no matter the quarter. That, and they are at their best when they get to the 4th quarter. The offense though has not particularly gotten better as the season has gone along. The 5 worst weeks in the 4th quarter for the offense were weeks 1, 4, 6, 8, and 10 (ranged from 9.1% to 23.5% success rate). The 5 best weeks were weeks 5, 3, 9, 2, and 12 (ranging from 44% to 56.3%), including their last game against the Bears being their best performance in the 4th. The offense ranks as the 20th, 9th, 20th, and 30th best for success rate in the 1st through 4th quarters. Not great, and something KOC needs to look at. Can’t call the 4th quarter differently than the rest of the game if it was working. Stay aggressive!

Things are about to get interesting.

The next few weeks became all the more interesting after the back to back losses to the Broncos and Bears, combined with Green Bay and the Rams jumping up to 6 wins. The division is more than likely out of reach now after the loss to the Bears and the Lions taking care of business this past week. It would take one of the biggest falls in recent memory for the Lions to not win at least 2 more games in the next 4 weeks to make it impossible for the Vikings or even Packers to catch them. HOWEVER, the 6 and 7 seed are fully up for grabs. Realistically, the Vikings, Packers, Seahawks, and Rams are the 4 teams vying for the final 2 spots. Below are the remaining schedules for each of the 4 teams, and how I see them playing out.

So much will ride on that GB game in week 17. A loss there and  the Vikings might miss the playoffs, or at the very least become the 7th seed with 8 or 9 wins, and go to DAL/PHI on Wild Card Weekend. Not ideal at all. The 6th seed will go to Detroit WC Weekend, and that makes me feel better about the chances of an upset. Either way, the next 5 weeks are going to be crazy, and every week truly matters.

What’s next?

So obviously I already spoiled what I think happens next, but let’s dig a little deeper into each game and see why I think the Vikings will get that 6th seed. Below is the quick breakdown of EPA and success rates for the upcoming opponents. As we discussed before, this Vikings defense is pretty good. They have the 8th best defense from and EPA/Play allowed! Also, the upcoming defenses the Vikings face are not all that intimidating. All 4 of them are in the bottom half of the league in both EPA/Play allowed and success rate allowed. Here is hoping KOC and Dobbs/Mullens/Hall can take advantage and get into the playoffs.

At Las Vegas | 12/10/2023 | 3:05pm

You have to win this game. A rookie QB with an interim head coach leading the team. You are clearly the better team on paper and on the field. WIN THIS GAME!

BOLD PREDICTION: The Vikings offense has 0 turnovers and the defense forces at least 2.

WIN MIN 27 – LV 17

At Cincinnati | 12/16/2023 | 12:00pm

This game comes down to how well Jake Browning continues to play for the Bengals. If he plays like he did against the Jaguars against the Vikings, I don’t think they can win it. I am going to say the Bengals pull it off. If this was in Minnesota I would pick the Vikings, it is just that close. If the Vikings do end up winning this game, they are almost assuredly making the playoffs unless they lose their last 3 games.

BOLD PREDICTION: JJ goes off for 150+ receiving yards.

LOSS CIN 28 – MIN 27

Home Against Detroit | 12/24/2023 | 12:00pm

This game could seal the division win for Detroit. Assuming they beat the Bears and Broncos, this game would be win #11 and match the best record the Vikings or Packers could get. However, if the Lions do lose to the Broncos this game could be a huge divisional game to setup a division title showdown in week 18. I am going to go with a win here, mainly because it is in Minnesota, and the Lions might be looking ahead a bit to the Cowboys the following week.

BOLD PREDICTION: The Lions have their second worst offensive outing of the year scoring under 20 points.

WIN MIN 24 – DET 17

Home Against Green Bay | 12/31/2023 | 7:20pm

This game determines a lot of the playoff seeding in the NFC. A win against Green Bay after wins against LV and Detroit earlier more than likely guarantees a playoff spot. Call me crazy or a homer, but I don’t fully trust that Jordan Love is actually a great QB. Is he a solid QB that can win some games, sure. But I do not think he can take on this defense as it is currently playing.

BOLD PREDICTION: Love is intercepted twice in the game.

WIN MIN 23 – GB 16

At Detroit | 1/7/2023 | TBD

Here we are. The final game of the year. If the previous 4 games go as I predicted and the Vikings are 9-7 going into this game, this is probably a nothing game for either team. The only exception is if the Lions lose 2 of their 3 other games. Then this game will be the division title matchup, and probably the final regular season game of the year on Sunday Night Football. I anticipate the Lions beating both the Bears and Broncos so this game will be nothing for them, and more than likely the Vikings already have a playoff spot secured. In that case both teams rest players and don’t game plan a lot in order to preserve their best for the wildcard round rematch the following week. Give me a Vikings win, but I don’t feel great about it at all.

BOLD PREDICTION: Hunter plays some and gets at least 1 sack to give him 20+ for the season.

WIN MIN 21 – DET 14

There you have it. The Vikings finish 10-7 and get the 6 seed to go on the road to face the Lions for the 3rd time in 4 weeks. That or they get some good luck finally and the Lions lose to the Broncos and the Vikings are hosting another playoff game. As always, discuss below, and let me know if you have any questions or would like to see a deeper dive into some of these metrics. I will be back in the final week of the season or after the final game to breakdown the season as a whole and look forward to the anticipated playoff game. TF

All data exported from the NFLVerse in RStudio.

The Dark (and Light) Side of the Moon - Post BYE Breakdown


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
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