E Point Perfect

ESPN’s 2022 End-of-Season Simulation Isn’t Flattering for Vikings


ESPN's End-of-Season Simulation Isn't Flattering for Vikings
Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham (30) runs the ball while pursued by Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings finish the 2022 regular season with back-to-back road games against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and that’s never happened before. Minnesota has never finished a season on the road against Green Bay and Chicago in any order back-to-back.

And while Minnesota owns an elite 12-3 record through Week 16, ESPN isn’t optimistic about the Vikings end-of-season result. The sports media giant used its Football Predictive Index to simulate Weeks 17 and 18, describing the process, “Using ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), we determined the most likely seed combination in each conference. We then picked a single simulation that yielded that pure chalk playoff seeding to forecast scores for each game and simulate the postseason.”

ESPN’s End-of-Season Simulation Isn’t Flattering for Vikings

Long story short — ESPN predicts the Vikings losing to the Packers on Sunday by a score of 23-16 and then floundering against the Bears, too, at Soldier Field, culminating in a 34-24 loss.

Flattering for Vikings
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Accordingly, that finish would plop the Vikings in the NFC’s No. 3 seed after the San Francisco 49ers finish 1-1, per ESPN, and seize the No. 2 seed from Minnesota. Here’s ESPN’s theory for postseason seeding:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Minnesota Vikings
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  5. Dallas Cowboys
  6. New York Giants
  7. Green Bay Packers

The Vikings would dodge the simulated white-hot Packers and draw the New York Giants number in the postseason — a team Minnesota toppled in Week 16 via 61-yard walkoff field goal.

a new viking hero
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN’s Seth Walder described the 49ers-Vikings jostle for the No. 2 seed, “The door to the No. 2 seed was left ajar by the Vikings also stumbling against the Packers. And then the Vikings suffer an upset loss to the Bears in the final week of the season, which allows Brock Purdy and the 49ers to swoop in for the No. 2 seed with a win over the Cardinals, ensuring home-field advantage in the divisional round.”

Curiously, ESPN also predicted a 49ers loss in Week 17 to the Jarrett Stidham-led Las Vegas Raiders, an outcome not on most folks’ bingo boards. Still, because the Vikings evidently lost to the Packers and Bears, the 49ers snagged the two-seed because of an NFC conference tiebreaker.

So, Is Kirk Cousins Back?
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

If one cynically assumes Minnesota will lose at least one game between now and the end of the regular season, then indeed, the Vikings would probably square off against the Giants in Round 1 of the postseason. Otherwise, Kirk Cousins and Co. “control their own destiny” and can beat the Packers and Bears to hold onto the No. 2 seed.

Walder’s AFC simulation ended this way:

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Los Angeles Chargers
  6. Baltimore Ravens
  7. Miami Dolphins

The Giants haven’t beaten the Vikings in 10 years — the last time was the infamous “Josh Freeman Game” — so New York would need to exorcise demons to advance in the playoffs.

Minnesota hasn’t hosted a home playoff game since The Minneapolis Miracle.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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