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Untangling all the Vikings’ playoff seeding scenarios

The purple can still land at just about any spot in the draw

NFL: DEC 15 Vikings at Chargers Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before I get too far into this, I want to thank the rest of the folks that contribute to the site here for picking up my slack on Sunday. Yesterday was the first game I’ve attended as a fan since. . .well, since the last time the Minnesota Vikings came out west to play the (then San Diego) Chargers. It was a hell of an experience, and it was nice to be able to just sit back and watch a game. As much as I enjoy being the lead writer here, it’s still nice to occasionally just let go of stuff for just a little bit.

I’m back now, though, and after the destruction the Vikings wrought in Los Angeles on Sunday, the possibility of the postseason is that much closer, and the Vikings can still wind up just about anywhere in the seedings at this point.

There are still scenarios where the Vikings can end up as the #1, #2, #3, #5, or #6 seed in this year’s NFC playoffs. They can’t be the #4 seed. . .that’s reserved for whoever wins the trash fire that the NFC East has turned into.

So, let’s see if we can decode all of the scenarios that could, potentially, put the Vikings into the postseason. I ran these scenarios through the ESPN Playoff Machine, and they all seem legit to me.

#6 Seed

This is the most likely scenario for the Vikings at this point. In order to lock this one up, the Vikings need to win one of their final two games or have the Los Angeles Rams lose one of their final two games. The Rams play the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night, so the Vikings could very well know if they’re in the playoffs before they take the field Monday night. Right now, according to most sources, the Vikings have about a 95% chance of making the postseason.

#5 Seed

This is still in play because of the 49ers losing to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon. Ending up at #5 could be significant, because it would mean a trip to either Dallas or Philadelphia as opposed to Green Bay, Seattle, or New Orleans. In order for this to happen, the Vikings would have to win out, beating the Green Bay Packers in Week 16 and the Chicago Bears in Week 17. The Packers would then have to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 17. The Niners would also have to cooperate by beating the Rams on Saturday and then losing to the Seahawks in Week 17.

That scenario would put the Vikings and the Niners both at 12-4, but the Vikings would have the edge in the “common opponents” tiebreaker, putting them in the #5 spot and San Francisco at #6.

#3 Seed

The scenario for the Vikings getting the third seed is a simple one. The Vikings need to beat the Packers in Week 16 and the Bears in Week 17, and hope that the Packers also lose to the Lions in Week 17. If the Packers don’t lose to the Lions in their season finale, the Vikings can’t get to one of the top three seeds. If the Packers and Vikings both finish 12-4, Green Bay wins the division based on superior divisional record (5-1 vs 4-2).

#2 Seed

In order to get to the #2 spot, in addition to needing the Packers to lose out, the Vikings would also need the Seahawks to lose out, finishing at 11-5. They’d also need the Saints to finish at 11-5 or worse, meaning they’d have to lose two out of their next three (they play the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football this evening). They would also need to have the Niners lose to the Rams on Saturday and beat the Seahawks in Week 17.

In this scenario, you’d have the Vikings and Niners at 12-4, and the Seahawks, Saints, and Packers all at 11-5 (or worse if the Saints were to lose out). San Francisco would win the tiebreaker based on strength of victory, and they would be the #1 seed while the Vikings would be at #2.

#1 Seed

The only way that the Vikings can get the #1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs is in a scenario where they’re the only team in the NFC that gets to 12 wins. That means that they would need all of the following:

  • Win out to get to 12-4
  • Green Bay to lose out to finish 11-5 (Vikings win NFC North)
  • New Orleans to lose two of their last three to finish 11-5
  • Seattle to lose to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 and then tie the 49ers in Week 17 to finish 11-4-1
  • San Francisco to lose to the Rams in Week 16 and then tie the Seahawks in Week 17 to finish 11-4-1

If any other team in the NFC reaches 12 wins, the Vikings can’t beat them in a tiebreaker. They can’t beat Seattle based on head-to-head, they can’t beat Green Bay based on division record, they can’t beat San Francisco based on strength of victory, and they can’t beat New Orleans based on record against common opponents. We’re firmly into Lloyd Christmas territory with the Vikings’ chances to get the #1 seed, but yes. . .we’re telling you there’s a chance.

I believe those are all of the different playoff scenarios and seedings for the Vikings. Things are still pretty flexible going into the final two weeks, and all we can hope for is that the Vikings take care of business and hope that some of the other chips fall where we need them to.