There are just two weeks left in the 2018 NFL regular season, and the number of games that actually matter to fans of the Minnesota Vikings. . .besides their own, naturally. . .is getting lower and lower. Specifically, I’m talking about games that could affect the Vikings’ chances of reaching the 2018 NFL playoffs as one of the two Wild Card teams, as the NFC North title was wrapped up by those darn Chicago Bears this past Sunday.
I’ll start by pointing out that, independent of any other game on the schedule, the Vikings will have an 85% chance of making the 2018 NFC playoffs if they defeat the Detroit Lions on Sunday, and just a 33% chance if they don’t, according to the “Upshot” tool over at the New York Times. So, the Vikings could do themselves a tremendous favor by simply taking care of their own business on Sunday at Ford Field.
This week, there are just two games that matter in the Vikings’ quest to make the postseason, and a third that could play a role as far as potential seeding is concerned. They’re nicely spread out over the course of the weekend, too. Now, to be clear. . .if the Vikings win both of their final two games, it makes no difference what any other team in the NFC does. The Vikings secure themselves a playoff spot with wins over Detroit this Sunday and Chicago next Sunday. However, in the name of potentially decreasing the stress that anyone might have to deal with going into Week 17, it would be nice to see the purple wrap up a spot as quickly as possible.
So, here are the games we care about that aren’t taking place in Detroit.
Games that matter to the Vikings making the playoffs
Washington Redskins at Tennessee Titans (Saturday afternoon, NFL Network)
The Redskins are pretty sizeable underdogs in this one. . .the spread was ten points the last time I had a look at it. . .and with good reason. They barely managed to squeak out a victory last Sunday over a Jacksonville Jaguars team that had nothing to play for, and now travel to Tennessee to take on a Titans team that’s in a fight for their playoff lives. This seems like it should be a win for the home team, but given that this is one that the Vikings need, I’m sure it will be a nail-biter. In any event. . .
Verdict - Go Titans!
Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday afternoon, FOX)
This game will be taking place at the same time as the Vikings/Lions game, so there will be some scoreboard watching going on from the Vikings’ faithful. Houston is fighting for a first-round bye in the AFC. . .they currently occupy the #2 spot in the conference, thanks to the New England Patriots losing last week. . .and they’ll wrap it up if they win out. The Eagles pulled off a huge upset over the Rams last Sunday night in Los Angeles to keep themselves alive. I mean, it’s not like you were cheering for the Eagles anyway, but in any case. . .
Verdict - Go Texans!
How much do these two games affect the Vikings’ playoff chances? Here’s the breakdown based on the various results:
- TEN win, HOU win: Vikings clinch playoff spot with win over Detroit, 55% to make playoffs with loss to Detroit
WAS win, HOU win: Vikings 85% to make playoffs with win, 36% to make playoffs with loss
- TEN win, PHI win: Vikings 83% to make playoffs with win, 36% to make playoffs with loss
WAS win, PHI win: Vikings 68% to make playoffs with win, 18% to make playoffs with loss
Yes, if the Vikings, Titans, and Texans all win this weekend, the Minnesota Vikings will roll into Week 17 securely in the field for the 2018 NFC playoffs. Any other scenario means that Week 17 will actually count for something. It’s also worth pointing out that the Redskins and Eagles play each other at FedEx Field in Week 17, so they can’t both win out.
Game that could, potentially, matter for playoff seeding purposes
Kansas City Chiefs at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football, NBC)
If the Vikings win and the Seahawks should fall on Sunday night, the Vikings would leapfrog the Seahawks into the #5 spot in the NFC, as opposed to the #6 spot (where they are now). As we’ve gone over in previous posts, that could be big considering that the #5 seed would be looking at a trip to play the NFC East champion in the Wild Card round, while the #6 seed is likely guaranteed a trip to Soldier Field. Honestly, it’s probably better to be the #5 seed in that scenario. So, with that. . .
Verdict - Go Chiefs!
Games that might matter because they could affect the Bears
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (late Sunday afternoon, FOX)
The Bears still have a chance to jump into the #2 spot in the NFC, but it would require them to win out while the Rams would have to lose at least one of their final two games. I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to give the Rams too many difficulties, and the Rams are still fighting for the #1 seed in the conference. The Niners, on the other hand, have made things difficult for teams in the playoff race over the past two weeks, knocking off the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. A Rams win and a Bears loss would eliminate the possibility of the Bears getting a first-round bye and leave them with little to play for next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. So, if you believe in that sort of stuff. . .
Verdict - Go Rams and Go Niners!
Those are the games that fans of the Vikings need to keep an eye on this weekend. Again, if the Vikings win their final two games, none of the other 30 games that happen in the National Football League over the final two weeks of this season will make any difference, and the purple will be playing in January. These are just some of the other ways that our favorite team can find themselves invited to the postseason party.