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Lucky 13! Vikings eye more than milestone win

December 27, 2017 GMT

In 98 seasons of NFL action, only 75 teams can say theyve won 13 or more games in one season.

The Vikings are one home victory over the 5-10 Bears from becoming No. 76. And they will have done it with backup quarterback Case Keenum playing all but six quarters.

Thats something I know Ill be considering when it comes time to pull the trigger for NFL Coach of the Year on my Associated Press awards ballot.

The Vikings were born in 1961. Bud Grant won 12 games five times in a 14-game season, but never reached 13.

It wasnt until Randy Moss showed up in 1998 that the Vikings reached and surpassed that barrier by going 15-1 en route to well, you know.

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The next stat might make the Purple Pessimists even more nervous as they continue tiptoeing past their Graveyard of Season-Ending Sucker Punches:

Thirty-three teams reached 13 wins between 2002, when the current playoff format began, and last season. Of those 33, five won the Super Bowl while 15 didnt even make the conference title game. So thats three times as many one-and-dones as confetti showers.

Believe it or not, from 1920 to 1934, NFL teams could play as many games as they wanted. The 1925 Frankford Yellow Jackets took full advantage, scheduling 20 games and becoming the first team to win 13 times.

They finished sixth in the league by virtue of their .650 winning percentage. The Duluth Kelleys played three games that year, finishing 0-3.

A year later, the Yellow Jackets finished 14-1-2 and won the title.

Three more teams won 13 games before the NFL started having a set number of games in 1935. The list includes the 1934 Bears, who went 13-0 before losing in the second NFL title game ever scheduled.

Teams played 12 games from 1935-36; 11 games from 1937-42; 10 games from 1943-45; and 12 games from 1947-60. So it was impossible to win 13 regular season games for 26 seasons.

The 14-game season was adopted in 1961, followed by the modern-day 16-game season in 1978. The 1962 Packers became the sixth 13-win team when they went 13-1 and won the league title game.

Of the 74 teams that have reached 13 victories, 22 have won the championship. The ones that have fallen short are led by the 2007 Patriots, who posted the only 16-0 regular season in league history.

Five teams have gone 15-1. You know about the 98 Vikings. And your pain is shared by the 2004 Steelers, who lost in the AFC title game; the 2011 Packers, who lost in the divisional round; and the 2015 Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl.

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The 1984 49ers were the first team to win 15 games. They won the Super Bowl and were followed a year later by a 15-1 Bears team that won the Super Bowl and secured a spot among the all-time great teams.

Six franchises have never reached 13 victories. The Lions have been around since 1930 and havent done it. The Browns have been around as an NFL team since 1950 and havent done it. They did go 14-0 while winning one of four straight All-America Football Conference titles in 1948.

The Bengals, Texans and Jets also havent reached 13 wins.

The 49ers have done it a league-high nine times, winning the Super Bowl four of those times. The Patriots and Broncos are next with six seasons of 13 or more wins. New England won three of their Super Bowls during 14-2 seasons, while Denver won one while going 14-2 in 1998.

The Packers, Bears and Colts each have done it five times. The Colts fell short of a Super Bowl title while going one-and-done in three of those five seasons.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs did it three times in eight years and went one-and-done each time. Marty Schottenheimer, of the leagues best regular-season coaches, proved to be one of its worst postseason coaches when he went one-and-done twice in three years with 13-win teams. Seven years later, he won 14 games in San Diego, went one-and-done again and was fired.

So, yes, 13 wins is a big deal. But its not guaranteed to leave a good taste behind.

Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL

E-mail: mcraig@startribune.com

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