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NFC North playoff picture: It’s all about the Wildcard for the Vikings right now

Things broke well for the Vikings yesterday, but it wasn’t perfect.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots
‘See, it’s simple. If we win, Carolina, Washington, and the Eagles lose, Chicago loses, all the planets align, and Freddie Mercury rises from the dead, we’re in. Simple. Now make a tackle.’
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

When the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams took the field last night, things had gone as well as could be expected for the Vikings to that point. Dallas beat Philadelphia, Cleveland beat Carolina, and the Giants boatraced Washington. Had the Rams beat the Bears, like most people thought, the Vikings would have a 50/50 shot to win the division, depending on how they did against Seattle, and things would be a lot more interesting.

Mitchell Trubisky’s best efforts aside, the Bears still won though, and are now in firm control of the NFC North. The division race isn’t over, but you can see the endgame from here. Still, though, the dreams of a division title aren’t dead, even though a wildcard spot is most likely where the Vikings land. Let’s see how it could all play out.

We’ve been looking at the Vikings playoff chances since their week seven win against the Jets, so if you’d like to go back to read all of these posts, you can go here, and from last week’s post you can find the rest.

If you don’t want to take the time to get caught up, a quick primer, if I may: I’ve been using two sites to help with playoff percentages and seeding, the 538 playoff predictor, and Playoff Predictors dot com, which allows you to waste hours of your day coming up with ‘if-then’ win-loss scenarios to see who is in and who is out of the playoffs. Since we started this, the Vikings chances for a playoff spot haven’t dipped below 50%, but they’ve swung back and forth.

After the Patriots game last week, here’s where things stood for the Vikings and making the playoffs:

After Sunday’s action, this is where the NFC North playoff picture sits, before the Monday Night Football game, per the 538 playoff odds site:

As mentioned above, the Bears victory over the Rams moved their chance to win the division to over 90%. And even though that game didn’t help the Vikings, the losses from earlier in the day increased their playoff odds from 60% last week to 70% this week. So all in all, things could have been a lot worse than they turned out to be. Still, we need to factor in tonight’s game to get a better picture of where the Vikings stand.

What happens if the Vikings beat Seattle tonight? Let’s take a look:

A win essentially means Minnesota is in the playoffs, and it more than doubles their chances to win the division. For the fanbase, it will give us a tremendous confidence boost, too, after the Vikings lackluster performance in New England last week. Winning the NFC North is a tall order right now, even with a win tonight, but two of the three games the Bears have left are against the Packers, and of course, the Vikings at home in week 17. After tonight, Minnesota has Miami and Detroit before the Bears, so it’s not over.

On the flip side, in the universe where all puppies have rabies, snakes are considered lovely household pets, and the Seahawks win tonight, this is how things will stand:

The Vikings will still have better than a 50/50 shot go to the playoffs and will control their own destiny for the second wildcard slot as the sixth seed, but the rest of the season will be like chewing glass, and the Bears will essentially lock up the division. In that scenario, the only way Minnesota wins the NFC North is to win out, while the Bears lose out.

Okay, let’s look at some what-if scenarios, again using the 538 site and the playoff predictor site. Right now, the playoff order in the NFC is:

  1. Saints (First round bye)
  2. Rams (First round bye)
  3. Bears
  4. Cowboys
  5. Seahawks
  6. Vikings
  7. Panthers
  8. Eagles
  9. Redskins

If the Vikings beat Seattle tonight, they’ll take control of the 5 seed in the NFC, and can put some distance between them and the 6-7 trio of Carolina, Washington, and Horse Poop Eaters. Additionally, if the Vikes beat Miami at home next week, and the Panthers (Saints at home), Eagles (at the Rams), and Redskins (at the Jags) all lose (distinct possibilities), Minnesota would actually clinch a playoff spot. Amazing, I know. If Green Bay can somehow figure out a way to beat the Bears and all those other hypotheticals remain the same, their chance to win the division is a 50/50 shot again.

So, uh, go Packers?

/runs to bathroom


Hypothetical scenarios are just that, though, and as far as the VIkings concerned, no matter what the scenariois , they all have one thing in common:

Win football games. Just win tonight, and everything will take care of itself.