We’re into the last quarter of the 2018 NFL regular season, folks, and that means it’s time to figure out which teams that aren’t the Minnesota Vikings we need to cheer for in order to get the purple into the NFC playoffs. To determine which games are the most important, I’ll be using the same New York Times tool that Ted uses when he does his playoff odds on Mondays.
I first want to point out that, independent of the results of any of the games that happen on Sunday, the Vikings’ chances of making the 2018 NFC playoffs move to 81% with a victory over the Seahawks and drop to 39% if they lose in Seattle on Monday night.
There are several games that could either enhance or diminish those chances, so let’s go over which games in particular those are.
Games in the early window
Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns
Carolina is one of the Vikings’ primary challengers for a Wild Card spot in the NFC, but they’re reeling in a serious way, having dropped four in a row to fall to 6-6. Now word is filtering out that Cam Newton is dealing with a shoulder injury that will require surgery after the season. The Browns, under the leadership of noted human colostomy bag Gregg Williams, are actually showing some signs of life. They have a record of 4-7-1 this season, but they’re 3-2-1 at home and could pose a serious threat to the Panthers in this one.
Verdict - Go Browns!
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Like the Panthers, the Redskins are another of the Vikings’ competitors for a potential Wild Card berth. However, they’re now on their third quarterback, as Colt McCoy (who replaced Alex Smith) suffered a broken leg during Washington’s loss on Monday night to Philadelphia, and will be replaced by Mark Sanchez. Woof. Not to be outdone, the Giants have announced that Odell Beckham, Jr. will not play on Sunday with a bruised quad, meaning that Eli Manning will have to miss other targets instead. This likely won’t be a pretty game, but the Giants could do us a solid here.
Verdict - Go Giants!
How could these two games affect the Vikings’ playoff chances? Well, independent of the other results on Sunday:
CLE win, NYG win - Vikings 83% to make playoffs with win over SEA, 55% with loss to SEA
CLE win, WAS win - Vikings 80% to make playoffs with win over SEA, 39% with loss to SEA
CAR win, NYG win - Vikings 80% to make playoffs with win over SEA, 38% with loss to SEA
CAR win, WAS win - Vikings 76% to make playoffs with win over SEA, 32% with loss to SEA
Game in the late window
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys could pretty much end the competitive portion of Philadelphia’s season with a win on Sunday, as they would have a head-to-head sweep over the Eagles in the NFC East race. It would also drop the Eagles to 6-7 on the year, and they have to head to Los Angeles to play the Rams in Week 15. I know a lot of old-school Vikings fans might not want to cheer for the Cowboys, but it really is for the best for the Vikings at this point if they win.
Verdict - Go Cowboys!
These are the three most important games for the Vikings, so let’s break down the potential combinations of results and see how they could affect the team’s playoff hopes.
CLE win/NYG win/DAL win - 88% playoff chance with win, 52% with loss
CLE win/NYG win/PHI win - 82% playoff chance with win, 46% with loss
CLE win/WAS win/DAL win - 81% playoff chance with win, 46% with loss
CAR win/NYG win/DAL win - 81% playoff chance with win, 40% with loss
CAR win/NYG win/PHI win - 79% playoff chance with win, 36% with loss
CLE win/WAS win/PHI win - 77% playoff chance with win, 38% with loss
CAR win/WAS win/PHI win - 76% playoff chance with win, 31% with loss
CAR win/WAS win/DAL win - 73% playoff chance with win, 32% with loss
Game that potentially helps our division chances but not our playoff odds overall
Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears (Sunday night)
Since the Vikings aren’t in the division lead at this point, a Bears loss on Sunday doesn’t really change their odds of making the playoffs. Independent of any other results on Sunday, a Rams win over the Bears would keep the Vikings’ playoff odds at 82% with a win over Seattle and 41% with a loss to the Seahawks, so it doesn’t move the proverbial needle that much. A Chicago loss coupled with a Minnesota win, however, would greatly enhance the Vikings’ chances of potentially winning the NFC North, particularly if both teams could hold serve until their rematch at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 17.
Games that don’t matter all that much but you’ll be paying attention to anyway
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are still, technically, in the Wild Card hunt, but honestly. . .nobody knows what the heck is going on with that team from one minute to the next. The Saints are going to want to keep up with the Rams now that they’ve fallen to the #2 spot in the NFC. A New Orleans victory would give the Vikings a slight nudge, but not significant enough where you have to cheer for New Orleans if you feel dirty for doing so, I don’t think.
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
This game has pretty much no effect on the Vikings’ playoff standing, but honestly. . .it’s not as though you were going to be cheering for Green Bay anyway, right? (You’ll probably have to do that next week, though.)
Games that have absolutely no bearing on the Vikings’ playoff chances
- New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
- Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
- Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
- Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers
- Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers
- Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
As you’d probably guessed.
So, in review. . .go Cleveland, go New York Giants, go Dallas, go Los Angeles Rams, and go New Orleans (if you can bring yourself to do it). Obviously, it will be super helpful if the Vikings can take care of their own business on Monday night, but since we have to wait until then anyway, we could just as well have some cheering interests in the meantime.