UPDATE 3:30 P.M. SUNDAY
The Vikings improved to 7-6-1 with a 41-17 win over the Dolphins, but their playoff fate isn't much clearer thanks to the Jaguars blowing a lead and losing to the Redskins (7-7) 16-13.
Philly and Carolina, both 6-7, have yet to play this week, but not matter what the Vikings, in order to clinch next week, will need to beat Detroit and have AT LEAST Washington lose.
If the playoffs started this week the Vikings would be in as the second wild card in the NFC, and according to the NFL Playoff Machine, Minnesota has a 52 percent chance to advance to the postseason.
A win over the Dolphins this Sunday boosts their chances to 66 percent, and it jumps higher if the teams chasing the Vikings – the Redskins, Eagles, Panthers and Packers – lose this week.
- Redskins at Jaguars (Jags favored by 8 1/2 points)
- Eagles at Rams (Rams favored by 9 1/2 points)
- Saints at Panthers (Saints favored 6 points)
- Packers at Bears (Bears favored by 5 points)
The odds favor all four losing as the Jaguars, Rams, Saints and Bears are all favored by at least five points. If all four lose and the Vikings win – and they should as 9 1/2-point favorites at home against Miami – Minnesota's playoff chances skyrocket to 82 percent, according to the playoff machine.
Let's say everything goes the way of the Vikings and they enter Week 16 with a record of 7-6-1, with the Redskins, Eagles and Panthers all sitting at 6-8 and the Packers at 5-8-1. Green Bay would be eliminated and the Vikings could clinch with a win at Detroit.
That would put the Vikings at 8-6-1 and it wouldn't matter how the Redskins, Eagles and Panthers do because the best each could finish is 8-8 and the worst Minnesota could do is 8-7-1.
To recap, this is the fastest route to clinching the Vikings can take:
- Vikings beat Dolphins.
- Redskins lose to Jaguars.
- Eagles lose to Rams.
- Panthers lose to Saints.
- Vikings beat Lions in Week 16.
The Packers are dead no matter what if the Vikings beat the Dolphins and the Lions.
Of course, that's the ideal scenario and it very well might not happen.
What if the Vikings win and the Panthers beat the Saints while the Redskins, Eagles and Packers all lose?
That would create a situation where Minnesota and Carolina are fighting for the last playoff spot, and the Vikings would have the edge in overall record (7-6-1 compared to 7-7) and in the first tiebreaker, conference record, (5-4-1 compared to 5-5).
What if the Vikings win and every team chasing them wins? They could still clinch in Week 16 with a win over Detroit and losses by the Redskins, Panthers and Eagles. But if one of them were to win, the race would be extended until the final week.