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So What ARE the Vikings' Playoff Chances, Anyway?

Currently sitting with a 6-8 record, the Vikings are still amazingly (sadly?) in the thick of the wild card race in the NFC.  But exactly how good a shot do they have at this point?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

(A good portion of the information in this post has to be credited to VikesOwnYou over at the Sports-Boards.net Vikings' message board.  He's figured all this stuff out so that the rest of us can see the scenario without making our heads explode.  Also, feel free to sign up at S-B.net.  They're good people.)

Here is the list of the tie-breaking procedures that the NFL uses.

TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM

If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.

  1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
  2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.
Two Clubs
  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.
Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss
So, let's say the Vikings win out and end up at 8-8, winning at Green Bay on Thursday night and against St. Louis at the Dome to finish the season.  This would give the Vikings a conference record of 8-4.  That would give Minnesota a better conference record than everyone they could potentially finish tied at 8-8 with.  Let's first take a look at the

Heads-Up Tie-Breakers

If the Vikings finished in a heads-up tie at 8-8 with San Francisco, the Niners would knock the Vikings out, having beaten the Vikings head-to-head.  If the Vikings finished with a heads-up tie at 8-8 with Carolina, the Vikings would beat out Carolina since they beat the Panthers back in Week 2 and "games played without Steve Smith" isn't a part of the NFL's tie-breaking process.

The Vikings would also win a head-to-head tie-breaker against Seattle.  If the Niners and Seahawks both finish 8-8, San Francisco would be your NFC West Champions based on their sweep of the Seahawks this season.  However, I'm not sure how good the chances of that happening are.

Another head-to-head tiebreaker the Vikings potentially face is being tied with Atlanta at 8-8.  In that case, the Vikings win the tiebreaker due to a better conference record than the Falcons.  If both teams finished 8-8, the Falcons' record against the NFC would be 6-6 versus the Vikings' 8-4 mark.

The last potential head-to-head tie-breaker the Vikes could potentially face would be against the New York Giants.  But if both the Vikings and Giants finished at 8-8, the Vikes would again have an 8-4 conference mark to New York's 7-5 record, and again would win the tie-breaker.

So, basically, if the Vikings wind up tied with one other team at 8-8, they beat out any team with the exception of San Francisco.

So those are your potential head-to-head tie-breaker scenarios for the Vikings.  Now, let's look at the

Multiple-Way Tie-Breaking Scenarios

Here are the current conference records of the teams still in the NFC playoff hunt, and their remaining games.  Games against NFC teams are in bold.

Philadelphia:  7-3 (@ DAL, vs. ATL)
Best potential conference record:  9-3 (10-6 overall record)^
Middle of the road:  8-4 (9-7 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  7-5 (8-8 overall record)

NY Giants:  6-4 (vs. NO, @ WAS)
Best potential conference record:  8-4 (9-7 overall record)
Middle of the road:  7-5 (8-8 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  6-6 (7-9 overall record)

Atlanta:  5-5 (vs. CAR, @ PHI)
Best potential conference record:  7-5 (9-7 overall record)
Middle of the road:  6-6 (8-8 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  5-7 (7-9 overall record)

Minnesota:  6-4 (@ GB, vs. StL)
Best potential conference record:  8-4 (8-8 overall record)
Middle of the road:  7-5 (7-9 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  6-6 (6-10 overall record)

Carolina:  4-6 (@ ATL, @ NO)
Best potential conference record:  6-6 (8-8 overall record)
Middle of the road:  5-7 (7-9 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  4-8 (6-10 overall record)

San Francisco:  5-6 (vs. ARI, @ DEN)
Best potential conference record:  6-6 (Either 8-8 or 7-9 overall)
Worst potential conference record:  5-7 (Either 7-9 or 6-10 overall)

St. Louis:  4-6 (vs. WAS, @ MIN)
Best potential conference record:  6-6 (8-8 overall record)
Middle of the road:  5-7 (7-9 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  4-8 (6-10 overall record)

Green Bay:  5-5 (vs. MIN, @ CHI)
Best potential conference record:  7-5 (8-8 overall record)
Middle of the road:  6-6 (7-9 overall record)
Worst potential conference record:  5-7 (6-10 overall record)

^ - If the Eagles win out, they will win the NFC East.  In this case, it is impossible for the Vikings to end up tied with the Cowboys in the wild card race, as the worst Dallas can finish is 9-7

So, as you can see, no team can end up at 8-8 and have a better conference record than Minnesota if the Vikings also finish 8-8.  Part of the advantage of sucking ass against the AFC, I guess.

Obviously, the Vikings can't end up tied at 8-8 with Green Bay or St. Louis, as Minnesota plays head-to-head against both of those teams in the final two weeks of the season.  So, if we're looking at the "Vikings win out" scenario, neither of those teams are a factor.  Then again, if the Vikings lose either of those games, they're really not a factor, either.

So What Does It All Mean, Anyway?

So, given the Vikings winning out and finishing 8-8, they need the following things to happen:

1) San Francisco has to lose one more game OR Seattle has to lose twice with the Niners winning out. . .the winner of the NFC West doesn't make any difference.  The Niners can't win the division if they lose once more, and the Vikings beat the Seahawks in the tie-breakers if they finish 8-8 and lose out to San Francisco.

AND

2) Atlanta has to lose one more game to eliminate them from contention. . .that would leave them able to finish no better than 8-8, and they couldn't catch the Vikings in terms of conference record.

AND

3) New York has to lose one more game OR Philadelphia has to lose twice, with Dallas winning the NFC East.

That's not that complicated, is it? (-:

[editor's note, by Gonzo]

I've updated the story, because I'm a dope. There IS no scenario where we're still alive if we lose on Thursday night. The reason? Green Bay would own the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Vikings, and that tie-breaker would come into play first in the event of a multi-way tie.

So, the Vikings ARE OFFICIALLY ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF CONTENTION with a loss at Lambeau Field.