[Editor's note: Promoted from the FanPosts] - On January 13th, 2018, at roughly 6 PM, Nick Foles completed a 20-yard pass to Torrey Smith. That pass, which should have been a sure interception, bounced off the knee of a defender and into Smith's hands. Nick Foles posted a passer rating of 100.1 for the game. Herein lies the fatal flaw of NFL statistics: they never tell the whole story. No matter how advanced they become, stats cannot determine who wins and who loses a given game--if they could there would be no point in playing--however, they can reveal patterns or tendencies in teams and players. I would like to explore one such pattern in this article.
The Minnesota Vikings IN and OUT of U.S. Bank Stadium
I am sure many of you have heard that the Minnesota Vikings play better defense inside their own stadium than they do away from it. But what does that entail exactly? Well, let's take a look.
At U.S. Bank Stadium this season, the Vikings limited opposing offenses to the following stat line:
- 12.5 Points per game
- 2.8 Rushing yards per attempt
- 55 Rushing yards per game
- 19 Points per game
- 4.3 Rushing yards per attempt
- 112 Rushing yards per game
This is obviously a dramatic difference, but I'd like to take the analysis here one step further to fully illustrate the significance of these numbers. First, let me provide an overview of the Vikings' opponents in 2017.
This season, the Vikings played home games against the Packers, Lions, Bears, Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens, Rams, and Bengals.
On the road, they played the Packers, Lions, Bears, Steelers, Browns, Redskins, Falcons, and Panthers.
Using statistics available at ESPN.com, I was able to determine that the average PPG ranking of the teams that Minnesota faced at home was 14. In other words, in the average home game, the Vikings were facing the 14th best offense in the league. Interestingly, the average PPG ranking of the teams that Minnesota faced on the road was 18. This means that the Vikings defense surrendered an additional 7.5 PPG on the road to teams with INFERIOR offenses.
Furthermore, the average RYPG ranking of Minnesota's home and away opponents was equal, with both figures rounding to 14. In other words, the teams that Minnesota faced at home were roughly equal to the teams they played on the road in terms of rushing. However, as I pointed out above, Minnesota surrendered 112 RYPG to road opponents while limiting home opponents to just 55.
All of this information suggests that Minnesota's home/road splits cannot be attributed in any way to the strength of their opponents and that they do, in fact, play more poorly away from their home stadium. The reason for this could be attributed to crowd noise or a number of other factors, but it certainly bodes well for an Eagles team that finished the season ranked 3rd with 132 RYPG despite its most talented rusher (Jay Ajayi) being on the roster for less than half of the season.
Doug should absolutely be looking to exploit the Vikings' road defense and get Ajayi going in this game. Remember, 112 is the Vikings' magic number on the road; I think 112 rushing yards for Ajayi would be more than enough to prove Vegas and the media wrong, and to punch the Eagles' ticket to SB52.
Fly Eagles Fly
There is a little narrative floating around that the Vikings should have an edge over the Eagles in the turnover department. This is blatantly false. The Eagles generated 31 turnovers this season, good for 4th in the league, while Minnesota generated only 19, good for 23rd best. Furthermore, the Eagles sported a +11 turnover differential, while the Vikings' differential was only +5.
If a turnover decides the NFC Championship Game, the stats suggest that the Eagles, not the Vikings, are the more likely beneficiaries.