Finish 10-6. That's the goal for the Minnesota Vikings. Anything less dramatically decreases their playoff chances.
Numbers-wise, Minnesota's chances at 10-6 are only slightly better than the odds of beating Vegas in blackjack or craps. To be exact, winning out will give the Vikings a 56 percent chance to get in, according to ESPN (Insider required).
Here's the full ESPN explanation of Minnesota's playoff odds.
"Even though the Vikings beat the Jaguars this week, most of their competitors for NFC wild-card spots won as well. So the Vikings' playoff odds dropped by almost one-third, from 21.9 percent to 14.1 percent. Minnesota really has to sweep the final three games to make the playoffs. The Vikings only get a wild card in 3.2 percent of the simulations where they finish 9-7 or 8-8, but if they can go 10-6 they have a 56 percent chance of winning a wild card and a 29 percent chance of passing Detroit to win the division."
The odds are generated by Football Outsides via software that simulates the final three weeks of the season 50,000 times.
3 reasons the Lions will collapse
To win the NFC North the Vikings have to win out and the Lions have to lose out. This scenario feels like the most likely path to the playoffs. Minnesota is a 4-point home favorite against the Colts and they'll be favored Week 17 against Chicago. Winning those two seems likely, but beating Green Bay at Lambeau Field is the clear key to Minnesota's chances.
Meanwhile, the Lions appear destined for a Lions-like collapse.
- Most difficult remaining schedule in the NFC
- Matthew Stafford's messed up finger
- History says they'll collapse
First, Detroit has to play a murderer's row with Giants, Cowboys and Packers remaining. All three are fighting for the playoffs and/or playoff positioning.
Second, quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing with an injured middle finger on his throwing hand. Stafford dislocated and tore ligaments in the finger on Sunday and it's hurting his velocity and ability to grip the football, according to MLive.com. Stafford was 15 of 28 with 2 interceptions after the injury and this week he faces a tough Giants defense with rain and cold in the forecast.
Third, history suggests the Lions will lose out. Detroit is 0-2 in outdoor games this season and they haven't won in Dallas since 2010, according to CBS Sports. The last time the Lions played outside was two-and-a-half months ago at Soldier Field on Oct. 2 when the average temperature is in the mid-70s. It's going to be in the low 50s with rain Sunday in New York.
Getting a wild card will be hard
Getting in as a wild-card team or a division winner will be tough either way. As a wild card, the Vikings will have to finish ahead of all but one of the following:
- Giants (9-4)
- Buccaneers (8-5)
- Redskins (7-5-1)
- Packers (7-5)
That's not easy considering the Bucs and Redskins own the tiebreaker and the Giants need to lose at least twice in the last three weeks (very possible with the Lions, Redskins and Eagles remaining). The Vikings beat the Giants so they would own that tiebreaker in the event of a tie.