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Analyzing where the Vikings could finish in the NFC playoff race

Suddenly, the Rams are breathing down the Vikings' neck.
Stefon Diggs

If the playoffs started today the Vikings would be going on the road to Green Bay as the second Wild Card while the Packers would win the NFC North and earn the No. 3 seed. 

Minnesota's 37-30 loss to Seattle puts them at 8-4 overall, one game behind the 9-3 Packers. But the Vikings also trail with fewer NFC North wins (1-2) compared to Green Bay (3-0) and the Packers currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Vikings still have an 82% chance to make the playoffs but just a 28% chance to take over the division and win the NFC North. 

Week 14: Vikings vs. Lions, Packers vs. Washington

Both Minnesota and Green Bay will be heavy favorites to win, and assuming both do, it would put Green Bay at 10-3 and Minnesota at 9-4 entering Week 15. 

  • Vikings' NFC North chances in this scenario: 27%

If the Vikings win and the Packers lose, the odds suddenly favor the Vikings at 53%, largely due to the fact that Green Bay has to play in Minnesota in Week 16. 

Week 15: Vikings at Chargers, Packers vs. Bears

Minnesota has the tougher task going on the road to Los Angeles while the Packers have a rivalry game at home. Here's how the scenarios could play out, and how they would impact the Vikings' chances in the North, per FiveThirtyEight's playoff odds (assuming both the Vikings and Packers win next week). 

  • Vikings win, Packers win: 16% chance to win the North.
  • Vikings win, Packers lose: 56% chance to win the North. 
  • Vikings lose, Packers win: 14% chance to win the North. 
  • Vikings lose, Packers lose: 47% chance to win the North. 

Week 16: Vikings vs. Packers

It's complicated and there are a million scenarios, but playing it straightforward as possible, the Vikings really need to win their next two against Detroit and Los Angeles if they're to have any realistic hope of winning the North. 

If the Vikings enter Week 16 at 10-4 and the Packers are 11-3, Minnesota would need to beat Green Bay to enter Week 17 with identical 11-4 records. It would set up a scenario where if one team wins and the other loses – Vikings vs. Bears, Packers at Lions – the winner would be crowned the division champ. 

But if both the Vikings and Packers finish 12-4 in this scenario, the Packers win the tiebreaker due to a 5-1 divisional record compared to Minnesota's 4-2 mark.

Vikings need to root for the Bears in Week 15

What's killing Minnesota is their 1-2 record against divisional teams. Minnesota cannot afford to lose any game, really, but especially their three remaining against the Lions, Packers and Bears. And it would really help if Green Bay falls to the Bears in Week 15. 

Of course, any Green Bay loss the next two weeks is a massive benefit to the Vikings, but none more so than the Bears game. 

Wild Card picture

If the playoffs started today, the NFC would be seeded as follows: 

  1. Saints (10-2)
  2. Seahawks (10-2)
  3. Packers (9-3)
  4. Cowboys (6-6)
  5. 49ers (10-2)
  6. Vikings (8-4)

Suddenly, the Rams (7-5) are one game behind the Vikings. It's also a little alarming that the Bears (6-6) are just two games back with a Week 17 game in Minnesota to come. The good news is the the Rams and Bears have extremely difficult schedules. 

  • Rams: vs. Seahawks, at Cowboys, at 49ers, vs. Cardinals
  • Bears: vs. Cowboys, at Packers, vs. Chiefs, at Vikings

If Minnesota doesn't win the North they'll have to get in as a Wild Card with the No. 6 or No. 5 seed. With the NFC East champion destined for the No. 4 seed, getting the No. 5 seed will be critical in the Wild Card race. 

What's killing Minnesota there is that the No. 5 will likely be the NFC West runner-up, either Seattle or San Francisco, both of whom are 10-2. 

That leads to the obvious truth that getting the No. 6 will almost guarantee a road playoff opener in Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco or New Orleans. And at this point, the odds heavily favor that scenario for the Vikings. 

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