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Today at 538:

The Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings are both 3-0 to start the year, two of just five undefeated teams remaining in the NFL. But given the way that both teams have played so far, there are a lot of questions about how sustainable their success will prove to be as the season continues.

Let’s start with the Ravens. Although 27 other teams wish they had Baltimore’s record, I’m not sure 27 other teams wish they had Baltimore’s team. Being 3-0 is great, but the Ravens have managed to achieve their perfect record while racking up about as few style points as possible.

You can read the full article here.

  • Adam

    For once I agree with the 538 mob. The Ravens success is unsustainable, but I think you’re short changing the Vikings. They’ve beaten two of the best teams in the league and appear to have a dominant defense, even if the return TD’s dry up. It seems reasonable that Minny could finish 11-5 or 12-4 in a similar manner to which Denver did last year.

    • In this case, the 538 headline didn’t do me any favors for receiving a muted reaction. My suggested headline is the title to this post, but you can see why they went in a different direction 🙂

      My point on Minnesota is that you can’t keep winning with a mediocre to bad offense that produces no big plays. Right now, the MIN O is like a poor man’s Chiefs offense. I’d probably predict them to go 10-6 right now, which is 7-6 the rest of the way. That’s based on a top-5 defense and a bottom 10 offense (maybe a top-3 defense and a bottom 5 offense). I think they are well-coached and have good ST, which is why I have them at 7-6 rather than 6-7.

      I don’t think a dominant defense is as sustainable as a dominant offense, so while the MIN D looks great right now, I’m not ready to project a 2015 Denver season out of them. They certainly *could* do that, but I wouldn’t project it. Make sense?

      • Tom

        Chase – yeah, I love 538, but that title isn’t any good. It’s a lot sexier than yours, but I don’t think the point of your article was that Baltimore and Minnesota are for certain going to regress, etc., which is what the title suggests. The title should have at least said “The Vikings And Ravens MIGHT Be In For A Rude Awakening”.

        • Yeah. I don’t expect the average reader to understand that most authors have little to no impact on headlines (this is everywhere, not just 538). Part of the process. That said, I do plan to at least have some input on headlines going forward.

          • Tom

            Well, Baltimore just took their first step toward their “rude awakening”, losing a close one to the Raiders.

            • But not those Vikings!

              • Tom

                Hahaha! Right! That was a solid victory for them!

      • Adam

        I guess I didn’t realize how impotent their offense has been, which makes your reticence much more understandable. The only Vikings game I’ve seen was against GB, and that was clearly their best offensive performance.

        Why don’t they let you write your own headlines? Sucks you get stuck with click-bait garbage. I think I just answered my own question 😉

    • Tom

      Adam – I like the Vikings as well, but I’d be a bit concerned about those return scores. They’ve got 21 points off returns; if we take those out (and I don’t mean to say they’re not important or don’t count, etc.), then the Vikings have a point differential of +3 points, or 1 point per game. The average team scores about 25 special teams/defense points throughout the year (since 1978)…so, either the Vikings are on track for an amazing year of “non-offense” points (the record is 91 by Seattle in 1998), or, they’re close to using up their bonus points!

      You are correct that they’ve beaten two of the best teams in the league…but we can flip that around and say that they only beat them because of the return TD’s.

      Anyway, if I were a Minnesota fan, I’d be a little cautious right now, as far as celebrating, etc.

      OK, now all of that being said, there’s this: Benjamin Morris’ article at 538 a couple of weeks back showed that teams with a 3-0 record usually end up with about 11 wins and have a 74% chance of making the playoffs. Vikings fans can feel good about that!

      • Adam

        Yeah, I guess my point is similar to what Morris is postulating. The Vikings probably will regress because they can’t count on return TD’s going forward, but they’ll still be a good to very good team. Frankly 11 wins sounds like exactly the right number.

        • I’m a little too skeptical of Sam Bradford to pencil in an 8-5 finish. I’d go 10-6, 11-5, 9-7 as the most likely finishes, in that order.

      • daanno2

        Here’s the thing – you can’t just subtract the return points like that.

        Fumble/int/punt/kickoff return for TDs take away opportunities for the offense to score. So even if they hadn’t scored right away on the fumble/int/punts, you have to factor in the expected scoring value of an offensive possesion, often from very favorable field position.

        • Tom

          Actually, you can subtract those points like that, I just did! Seriously, I get what you’re saying, but I’m not really using my comment to definitively evaluate the Vikings offense, my only intent was to point out that they have scored a large amount of “non-offense” points, and that might be a concern – if those dry up, can the Vikings still score enough points, on offense, to win games? If other metrics say they can – expected points, DVOA, drive stats, etc. – then great.

  • The comments on 538 are something special for this one. My favorite is the sheer volume of pro-Vikings commenters who seem to miss the point of the “or” statement at the end.

    • I gotta be honest, I didn’t read them. There were way too many and I had a feeling how they would go based on that headline.

      • Headlines like that get clicks, but starting off the entire article in an adversarial tone sets you up for angry comments. I get that’s really what you want as part of the Disney multinational conglomerate, but it’s pretty clear the environment you’ve fostered here is far more in line with the discourse you desire.

        I had one article at WaPo, and it sort of went the same way. Thoughtful headlines don’t attract trolls.

    • Adam

      I’ve noticed this pattern with any fanbase who’s been starved of success for a while. When the team finally shows signs of life, the fans become defensive and hostile toward anyone who doesn’t believe in them. We saw this with Seahawks fans in 2012, Panthers fans last year, and now Raiders and Vikings fans this year. The Raiders fans are the craziest….if you dare to suggest that Derek Carr might not be a future HOF’er, the Black Hole reacts as if you just called their mothers a whore. I find the whole thing amusing 🙂

      • Tom

        Agreed. And as far as Raider fans, I’ve noticed what you described. Was with a Raider fan buddy of mine at the time Al Davis died and I said something about how Davis was a little crazy towards the end (at least) and my buddy went OFF on me about what a genius Al was and how he founded the AFL, etc., etc. I didn’t mind him defending Al, being a football fan, I understood how important Al was, etc., it was just how incredibly offended and defensive he got. As if, yes, I’d said something disparaging about his mom. After that, I let him lead any discussions regarding the Raiders…

        • Adam

          That’s pretty funny. I think Raider fans are especially touchy because they’ve been kicked in the balls continuously for nearly 15 years, and let’s face it, they’re one of these easiest franchises to make fun of. A lot of outsiders (myself included) laugh at the Black Hole and the irrational dealings of Al Davis, but inside the circle the fans take those traditions deadly serious.

    • It’s kind of funny to me seeing so many comments saying “Skol!” on them. My father is a Vikings fan, but I never once heard that anywhere until I lived in Minnesota. And I still had never seen it outside of the people I know from Minnesota until taking a (short) peek at the comments.

  • bigmoinaz

    Now that I have read this tripe, I know never to visit this site again due to the moron named Chase! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/af8c30e03ba66ff5f43e136ba37089e5a19318501e5b1d3c2817bd3845491e87.jpg

  • Jesse Monson

    Hi Chase, so I’m I Vikings fan, and was intrigued by your candid remarks here on this site. I read most of the homer comments from my fellow Minnesotans on 538, and read the comments here. The way you all have discussed and described our fan base is correct. We’re a starved fan base. I’ve had plenty of seasons where I was excited but knew that it “just didn’t feel right” despite our apparent success at the time. But this is a different type of team and different mindset.

    You’re focusing entirely too much on the O. The offense was so-so, borderline terrible. But even if they continue to play terrible offense, this defense will allow us to stay in any ball game. I would put my money on the offense being inconsistent, some good games, some bad… but this defense has been consistent not just for the first three games of this season, but all of last season as well. This year they have dominated some tough competition. But yeah… I’m still cautious. I’m a Vikings fan, I have to be!!

    From your article and the comments here, it seems like you and your friends didn’t actually watch the games, only the highlights, and then read the (unflattering) box score. I invite you and your friends, if you haven’t already, to watch the Vikes/Panthers game. It may sway your opinion.