Scouts.com and FOXSports.com have teamed together this offseason to run a sophisticated computer analysis of each team and game for the 2009 season, predicting game outcomes and potential fantasy sleepers. Essentially, they simulate each game 10,000 times and find an average between them all, using rosters current as of June 9th, and factoring in potential injuries to the team.
Their main article goes into more depth in regards to their statistical methods and insights (Vikes win NFC North by three games, go 11-0 to start the season??), but what’s important for Vikings fans to know is that their analysis confirms both the fans greatest and worst fears. Let me explain.
First off, they explain that the computer simulation appeared to have a database man crush on Percy Harvin. The simulation had Harvin hitting the ground running, on average predicting something outrageous like 92 rushes and 38 receptions for a total of 904 yards and eight touchdowns.
Even if Harvin puts up stats in this ball park range, I think most fans would end up wetting their pants in excitement. Frankly, Harvin, in his rookie year, would be almost everything that Vikings fans were anticipating he would be. What jumps out in the simulation though are the high number of rushes that Harvin is anticipated to have over his reception total. I think most fans anticipate him making an impact as a receiver rather than a runner. But doing quick math, this means that Adrian Peterson’s carry total would be down, hopefully making him more effective and dangerous throughout the entire season, and that it would also take carries away from reliable and underrated veteran Chester Taylor.
Of course, the simulation obviously doesn’t detail what kinds of rushes these are. How many are end arounds? How many are out of the “Wildcat” formation? Are they dump off passes behind the line of scrimmage? They do offer predictive stats for many other players on the team (Berrian gets close to 1,000 yards again, Peterson scores 15 TDs, etc.), but it’s difficult to determine where or who Harvin is getting his touches from. In the end, it may not matter if he puts up the production that is predicted.
On the other hand, it appears that if the team sticks with the current stable of quarterbacks that Vikings fans worst fears concerning the passing game will come to fruition, namely, the passing game won’t be improving much. The simulation mentions that Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson will mainly split snaps throughout the season (even though that reality is unlikely, the simulation probably did this in order to play off the strengths and weaknesses of each player with the entire team), and that neither will really stand out passing the ball. It’s predicted that Sage may have slightly more yards, but surprisingly (or maybe not, depending on which quarterback you support) Tarvaris is predicted to have the better touchdown to interception ratio, 10-3 as opposed to Sage’s 12-7.
Even with this depressing reality, it shouldn’t matter. The addition of Harvin to the offense and with a team wide focus on a successful running game is still predicted by the simulation to make the Vikings uncharacteristic winners and a dangerous team well into the playoffs.
So without surprise, it would seem that even the computer agrees with most Vikings fans sentiments concerning the team in 2009. Harvin has the potential to be a game changer, the passing game is still a huge question mark, and the Vikings will win the NFC North. Most fans probably will take this information with a grain of salt, as they should and as Scout.com warns you should, but if the team finds themselves anywhere near these predictions, they should be in good shape.