We are down to the final three games of the 2018 NFL regular season, and if things ended today your Minnesota Vikings would be the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Yes, it’s not anywhere near where we expected them to be in the lead-up to the season, but any season where the Vikings are playing in January is better than a season where they are not, so we’ll take what we can get.
According to the Upshot tool from the New York Times, the Vikings currently have a 53% chance to make the playoffs, despite their recent struggles. Independent of the results of any other game this week, that number goes up to 67% if the Vikings knock off the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and drop to. . .ugh. . .26% if the Vikings lose.
So, what are the other games that could enhance those figures and potentially push the Vikings towards a Wild Card playoff game in either (presumably) Chicago or Dallas? Well, there are three of them.
Games that matter for the Vikings’ playoff chances
Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday early games)
There are three teams that are still actively competing with the Vikings for that final Wild Card spot, and one of them is the Washington Redskins. This week, it appears that they’ll be starting Josh Johnson, who until recently was slated to play in the new AAF this February, but will now be starting for the Redskins due to the fact that he is not Mark Sanchez. The Jaguars are one of the few teams this season that have been even more disappointing than the Vikings, but they’ve benched Blake Bortles, and Washington just looked awful in getting throttled by the Giants last week. A loss for Washington would be their eighth, and would give the Vikings a nice boost.
Verdict - Go Jaguars!
Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams (Sunday Night Football)
The Eagles are team #2 that are in pursuit of the #6 seed, but they’ve got problems of their own as it appears that Carson Wentz might not play the rest of the season. (He’s already been ruled out of this contest.) Like the Redskins, a loss for the Eagles would drop their record to 6-8, and you’d have to imagine the Rams are quite the angry bunch after their Sunday night showing in Chicago last week. Throw in the Eagles’ issues in the secondary, and this one probably has the best chance of going the way we need it to.
Verdict - Go Rams!
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (Monday Night Football)
The Panthers are reeling, having dropped five games in a row, and now find themselves in a situation where two of their final three games are against a Saints team that moved back into the #1 spot in the NFC after the Rams’ loss. Cam Newton is still dealing with his shoulder injury, but Christian McCaffrey has done a nice job of becoming the focal point of the Panthers’ offense. (Take if from someone that has McCaffrey on his fantasy team.) Still, the Saints know what they’re playing for over these final three weeks, and I don’t know if Carolina is going to be able to stop them. I know it might make you feel dirty, but. . .
Verdict - Go Saints!
Here’s how these three games can potentially affect Minnesota’s playoff chances:
- JAX win, LAR win, NO win - 83% chance of playoffs with a MIN win, 42% with a loss
- WAS win, LAR win, NO win - 67% chance with a win, 22% with a loss
- JAX win, LAR win, CAR win - 66% chance with a win, 29% with a loss
- JAX win, PHI win, NO win - 66% chance with a win, 26% with a loss
- WAS win, LAR win, CAR win - 61% chance with a win, 22% with a loss
- JAX win, PHI win, CAR win - 56% chance with a win, 18% with a loss
- WAS win, PHI win, NO win - 54% chance with a win, 17% with a loss
- WAS win, PHI win, CAR win - 49% chance with a win, 19% with a loss
Last week, every game that would have enhanced the Vikings’ chances of making the postseason went the way the purple needed them to. Can we count on that kind of luck two weeks in a row? All of the teams the Vikings need to lose are sizeable underdogs this week, but. . .well, this is Minnesota, and we all know that good luck isn’t something that we generally sustain.
Game that honestly doesn’t matter unless you think the Vikings still have a shot at winning the NFC North (they really don’t)
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (early Sunday)
The Packers are, still, mathematically alive for the postseason, but any scenario in which they make it requires them to win out. The Bears will, officially, clinch the NFC North if they win on Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears are likely going to win the NFC North anyway, as they only need to win one of their final three games to make that happen. Let’s be honest. . .the sooner the Packers are officially, mathematically eliminated, the better. Am I right? Yeah, I’m right.
Verdict - Go Bears!
All of the other games on the Week 15 NFL slate have, quite literally, no effect on whether or not the Vikings will make the postseason this year.
So, those are the games that we’ll be keeping an eye on this Sunday (and Monday). Of course, the Vikings can make things easier on all of us by just beating the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. Here’s hoping that it happens.