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Early Games Give Vikings' Playoff Odds A Boost

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings got closer to punching their ticket to the 2015 NFL playoffs without even taking the field.

With the results of the early Sunday games in the books, the Vikings now have a 90% probability of getting into the post-season.

The Vikings got three of the four results they were hoping for from the early games according to our Rooting Interest Guide for Week 14. The biggest one came from the New Orleans Saints managing to hold on and knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a final score of 24-17. That pushed the Buccaneers' record down to 6-7 on the season, two games behind the Vikings with three to play.

The other results that the Vikings got to go in their favor were the Carolina Panthers crushing the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 38-0 to continue their perfect season, and the Washington Redskins fending off a furious rally from the Chicago Bears to get their first road victory of the season, 24-21. Robbie Gould pushed a potential game-winning field goal wide to the right to preserve the Washington victory.

Unfortunately, the Baltimore Ravens couldn't make it a clean sweep in the early games, as they got throttled by the Seattle Seahawks by a final score of 38-6. That means that, if the season ended today, the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs, while the Vikings would be in at #6.

According to the playoff simulator that is hosted by the New York Times, the other games that are going on right now will have very little effect on the Vikings' chances of making the playoffs. The Vikings' playoff odds will remain at right around 90% regardless of who wins the remaining games for Week 14.

The game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers that is going on right now will affect the Vikings' chances of winning the NFC North, but not of getting into the post-season field. If the Packers win, the Vikings will have a 22% chance at the #3 seed and a 63% chance at the #6 seed (along with a 5% chance at the #5 seed). A Dallas victory would bump Minnesota's odds of getting the #3 seed up to around 34% and their odds of getting the #6 seed down to 52% (along with a 3% chance at the #5 seed).

The Vikings could get one more boost to their post-season chances before the next time they take the field. The Buccaneers take on the St. Louis Rams on Thursday Night Football this week, and a loss by Tampa Bay would increase the Vikings' playoff chances even more. If the Vikings can win their next two home games, this coming Sunday against the Chicago Bears and the week after against the New York Giants, they can punch their ticket to the playoffs independent of what anyone else does.

But, as things stand right now, the Vikings are two games clear of the rest of the wild card field in the NFC with three games left to play. We'll go over the full playoff picture once things have been settled tomorrow.