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Here are two scenarios in which the Vikings obtain a first-round bye

Minnesota has a better chance at a bye than Green Bay.
Stefon Diggs

It might seem like a long shot, but the Vikings still have a chance at a first-round bye in the NFC. Thankfully, the powers that be at ESPN have a playoff machine that let you run through numerous simulations.

As it stands on Nov. 27, the Vikings actually have a better chance (23.6%) than the Packers (15.5%) for securing a bye, according to Football Outsiders.

Let's say Minnesota falls to Seattle, but if then wins the rest of their games against the Lions, Chargers, Packers and Bears, that puts them at 12-4 on the season. Minnesota will then need a little help from around the league. Specifically, Green Bay losing two of its three divisional games. Here's one way the Vikings can secure a bye.

Scenario 1:

  • Vikings go 4-1: with wins vs. Lions, at Chargers, vs. Packers, vs. Bears and loss at Seattle. Final record: 12-4
  • Packers go 3-2: with wins at Giants, vs. Redskins vs. Bears, with losses at Vikings and at Lions. Final record: 11-5
  • Saints go 3-2: picking up wins at Falcons, vs. Colts at Titans, with losses vs. 49ers, and at Panthers. Final record: 12-4
  • 49ers go 3-2: with wins at Saints, vs. Falcons, vs. Rams, with losses at Ravens and at Seahawks. Final record: 13-3
  • Seahawks go 4-1: with wins vs. Vikings, at Rams, vs. Cardinals and vs. 49ers and one loss against at Panthers. Final record: 13-3.

Because both the Seahawks and 49ers are in the same division, one of them will have to be a Wild Card team by default despite both being 13-win teams in this scenario.

The Vikings would win the NFC outright with a better record and then get the tiebreaker over the Saints because Minnesota owns a better winning percentage against NFC teams. 

So the seeding would be the following:

  1. Seahawks
  2. Vikings
  3. Saints
  4. Cowboys
  5. Packers 
  6. Saints

Even if the Vikings go 3-2 (with losses at Seattle and Los Angeles), as long as the Saints lose three of their NFC games, the Vikings would still hold the tiebreaker (9-2) over the Saints (8-3), assuming both teams finished 11-5.

Scenario 2:

  • Vikings go 3-2: with wins vs. Lions, vs. Packers and vs. Bears, with losses at Seahawks and at Chargers. Final record: 11-5
  • Packers go 3-2: with wins at Giants, vs. Redskins vs. Bears, with losses at Vikings and at Lions. Final record: 11-5
  • Saints go 2-3: picking up wins at Falcons, vs. Clots, with losses vs. 49ers, at Titans and at Panthers. Final record: 11-5
  • 49ers go 4-1: picking up wins at Saints, vs. Falcons, vs. Rams and Seahawks and loss at Ravens. Final record: 14-2
  • Seahawks go 3-2: picking up wins vs. Vikings, at Rams, vs. Cardinals with losses at Rams and vs. 49ers. Final record: 12-4

In this outcome, the Seahawks win their division and 49ers are in a Wild Card team. 

With three teams being 11-5 and both owning the same divisional record (4-3), the Vikings would win tiebreaker for the North due to better winning percentage in common games, according to the playoff machine, and would hold the conference record tiebreaker over New Orleans, securing a bye.

Here's what the seeding would like:

  1. 49ers 
  2. Vikings 
  3. Saints 
  4. Cowboys/Eagles
  5. Seahawks 
  6. Packers

So it's a sticky wicket, and it's going to take some help from the football gods, but we've seen crazier things happen.

What we do know is that this is probably the most top-heavy the NFC has been in a long time, which should equate to a crazy finish and jockeying for position in December. 

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