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Playoffs? Playoffs?! Who said anything about playoffs?

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Taking stock of the Vikings playoff chances at the halfway point

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I did a post about where the Vikings stood for playoff positioning, and I asked you, the good folks of The Daily Norseman commentariat, to decide on whether or not you wanted this to be a weekly thing. You voted ‘Yes’, by a razor thin 83-17% margin, so I guess in for a penny, in for a pound. Let’s take a look at how Sunday night’s loss to New Orleans affected the playoff chances and overall positioning for the Vikings, and we’ll look at the rest of the NFC North as well.

First, a quick review. After the Jets game last week, the Vikings playoff chances stood at 68%, and I compared them to the rest of the teams in the NFC North, using the 538 playoff predictor:

A win against New Orleans would have really gone a long way in not only helping the Vikings playoff chances, but would have pulled them within half a game of New Orleans, AND they would have had a head to head tiebreaker over them for the number two seed and a first round bye. Maybe not as big a deal with that week two tie to Green Bay on the record, but it was still a big game with a lot of implications. Obviously, Minnesota didn’t win, so let’s see what the new numbers for this week are:

In a nutshell, the loss to New Orleans was huge. Minnesota is now just has a 50/50 shot to make the playoffs, but they still have the best chance to win the division, which seems kinda odd since they got knocked out of first, at least for the time being. The loss also crippled their chances to get a first round bye, going from 20% to 5%.

The Bears playoff chances had the biggest boost, as they beat the Jets at home, and went from a 28% chance to 40% shot at making the playoffs. Because of their win and Minnesota’s loss, they also took over first place in the NFC North...just as everyone predicted for the halfway point of this season.

Green Bay and Detroit both lost, and of the two teams, Detroit took the biggest blow, going from 35% down to a 19% chance to make the postseason. But that’s still better than the Packers, who went from 23% to 18%.

Now, let’s go back over to the NFL playoff predictor page, and play a little ‘what if’.

First, we’ll look at our Beloved Purple. If the playoffs started today, the Vikings would be on the outside looking in as the seventh seed. The Bears would be the division champions, the number four seed, and the only NFC North team in the playoffs. Had the Vikings won Sunday Night and all other results remained the same, they would be the fourth seed, and the Bears would be the sixth seed.

Detroit really hurt themselves with their home loss to Seattle. Had they won, and nothing else changed, they would be the fourth seed right now, with Chicago the sixth. As it is, their fortunes swung wildly with the loss, dropping all the way down to the 13th seed, and the 11th overall pick in the draft. Whew, talk about Chutes and Ladders.

Green Bay is currently the eighth seed, right behind Minnesota. Had they beat the Rams, they move in to first place, even if the Lions had won. Ironically, in that scenario (Detroit and GB wins), Detroit grabs the sixth seed over Chicago, who drops to seventh ahead of eighth place Minnesota.

There’s still a lot of football left to play, and with three consecutive division games, we’ll get a lot more clarity as to where they stand in the playoff picture a month from now. If they can win all three, it would be huge, and a 3-0-1 mark in the division with just the Lions and Bears left would have them in an enviable position.

And don’t look now, but if things play out like I think they might, I have a feeling the last game of the season, at home against the Bears, will be for the division championship.

Again, just like everyone saw coming when the schedule first came out.