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Deciphering The Minnesota Vikings' Playoff Scenario

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

There are still two weeks remaining in the 2015 NFL regular season, but barring a turn of events that would border on the disastrous, the Minnesota Vikings will be returning to the post-season party for the first time since 2012.

Right now, the Vikings hold the #6 seed in the NFC with a record of 9-5, putting them two games clear of the rest of the Wild Card field in the NFC. They still hold their own destiny as far as the NFC North is concerned, as they will win the division of they win their final two games. However, some have asked why the Vikings aren't considered to have officially wrapped up a playoff berth yet.

The reason for that is that there's still one scenario where the Vikings would not make the 2015 NFC playoffs, and that would require a three-way tie between the Vikings, the Seattle Seahawks (9-5), and the Atlanta Falcons (7-7).

In order for this scenario to occur, the Vikings and Seahawks would both have to lose out, while the Falcons would have to win out. To explain why this scenario would keep the Vikings out of the playoffs, we need to look at the tiebreakers. The main thing to remember is that, in a three-way tiebreaker scenario such as this one, head-to-head does not have any role unless all three teams played each other during the season. Minnesota played Atlanta, and Minnesota played Seattle, but Atlanta did not play Seattle, so head-to-head is irrelevant.

The next tiebreaker, then, would be conference record. All three of the teams in question have two games remaining against NFC opponents. Seattle takes on St. Louis and Arizona, Atlanta plays Carolina and New Orleans, while the Vikings play the New York Giants and Green Bay. In a scenario where all three teams end up 9-7, they would all have conference records of 6-6, so that doesn't solve anything.

Next would be "common games," but that requires the teams in question to have four opponents in common. Since these three teams are in three different divisions, there aren't four opponents that all three of them have played. So, we can skip that one.

Last, we get to the step that breaks the tie, the "strength of victory" tiebreaker. Strength of victory pretty much is what it says it is. . .a computation of how good the teams that each team beat were. According to Yahoo! Sports, the teams that the Falcons would have beaten currently have 57 victories, while the teams Seattle has beaten currently have 49 and the teams the Vikings have beaten have 45. In the 9-7, three-way tie scenario, neither Seattle nor Minnesota would add anything to those totals, as neither would collect another victory, so the Falcons would remain ahead of both in that case.

So, in a scenario where the Vikings, Seahawks, and Falcons all finish 9-7, the Falcons would not only make the playoffs, but they would leapfrog the Seahawks to get the #5 seed. After the three-way tie was broken, the tie between the Seahawks and Vikings would have to be broken, and that one is significantly easier. . .the Seahawks beat the Vikings head-to-head, so they would be in at #6 and the Vikings would be out.

Once again, the only scenario that keeps the Vikings out of the playoffs is as follows:

-Two Minnesota losses, AND
-Two Seattle losses, AND
-Two Atlanta wins

Which means that they get into the playoffs with:

-One Minnesota win, OR
-One Seattle win, OR
-One Atlanta loss

Hopefully that clarifies why it is that, while the Vikings are 99% into the post-season picture at this point, there's still that little bit of chance that they won't get there. I don't know about you, but I think we can safely project the Vikings to make the post-season tournament.