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Vikings Still Have a Decent Shot at Making the Playoffs Despite All That’s Gone Wrong This Season

But playoffs effectively begin this Sunday

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all the injuries to key players, all the turnovers, and the fact that the Vikings have been the unluckiest team in the NFL this season, the Vikings still have a decent shot at making the playoffs this season. But for the Vikings to do so, they most likely need to win their remaining two games.

On the one hand, it’s difficult to have much faith in the Vikings winning either of their remaining two games, given the lengthening injury list and erratic quarterback play, but they may be aided by circumstances surrounding their remaining regular season opponents.

As it stands now, the Vikings have a 28% chance of making the playoffs according to the New York Times’ Playoff Simulator. They are currently the 8th seed in the NFC, one outside the seven that advance to the postseason, with the Rams and Seahawks currently occupying the sixth and seventh seeds, respectively. In order for the Vikings to make the playoffs, one of those two teams would need to lose at least one of their remaining two games. The Seahawks host the Steelers on Sunday in what is likely to be their most difficult game remaining (they travel to Arizona for their regular season finale), while the Rams travel to face the Giants and then the 49ers to end their season. The 49ers will likely be playing for the top seed at home against the Rams and will be a very tough matchup. Overall, there is a good chance either the Seahawks or the Rams will lose at least one of their remaining games, which opens the door for the Vikings.

Week 17: Green Bay Packers at US Bank Stadium

According to the New York Times Playoff Simulator, the Vikings and Packers have the same chance to make the playoffs at the moment- 28%. The Packers are in the same spot as the Vikings- needing to win both of their remaining games (they finish at home against the Bears) and need either the Rams or Seahawks to lose at least one of their remaining games.

But it’s unclear how motivated the Packers will be on the road at US Bank stadium this Sunday. They managed to beat the 2-win Panthers on a last second field goal last Sunday, but that was hardly an inspiring performance. And their injury list is longer than the Vikings’. The Vikings beat the Packers 24-10 at Lambeau Field back in Week 8- a rare non-one-score victory- and a game in which Jaren Hall finished the second half after Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon.

It’s unclear at the moment who will start at quarterback against the Packers on Sunday, but after Kevin O’Connell opened it up following the loss to the Lions- especially after Nick Mullens’ four interceptions- including the game losing one- it would not be surprising to see Jaren Hall start on Sunday. O’Connell said all three of the Vikings’ rostered quarterbacks- Mullens, Hall, and Josh Dobbs- would be considered for the starting job on Sunday, but it would be difficult to see why O’Connell would bring back either Mullens or Dobbs after their turnover problems.

And with capable quarterback play, the Vikings could very well beat a Packers team that has given up an average of over 400 yards per game over their past six outings, while having a middling offense led by quarterback Jordan Love.

In any case, whichever team loses on Sunday would be, for all practical purposes, eliminated from postseason contention. The winning team, however, has a pretty good chance to make the playoffs.

The key for the Vikings next weekend is also how the Lions fare against the Cowboys. The Cowboys are the clear favorite at home against the Lions, and should the Lions lose as expected, they would likely have little to play for in their Week 18 matchup against the Vikings. That’s because if the 49ers beat the Commanders as expected (they’re a heavy favorite) and the Eagles beat the Cardinals (also a heavy favorite), the Lions cannot improve their seeding with a win over the Vikings or move to a lower seed with a loss.

Week 18: Detroit Lions at Ford Field

Should the Vikings win and the Lions lose in Week 17, this could create a favorable matchup for the Vikings. If the 49ers and Eagles win Week 17 as expected- again both are heavy favorites- the Lions will have nothing to play for Week 18 and would therefore likely rest their starters in advance of the postseason.

That being the case, the Vikings could have a much easier time against the Lions backups, and pickup a victory on the road that could secure a spot in the postseason. The only way the Vikings would be eliminated from the postseason, having won both of their remaining games, is if both the Rams and Seahawks won both of their remaining games. That would include the Rams beating the 49ers on the road Week 18. It’s unlikely with both the Eagles and 49ers heavy favorites Week 17 and with the same win-loss record, for either team to secure the top seed prior to game time Week 18.

If the Vikings Make the Playoffs

If the above scenario plays out and the Vikings make the playoffs, they would do so as either the sixth or seventh seed. If the Seahawks won both of their remaining games, the Vikings would be the seventh seed and would travel to play the second seed on the road. That most likely would be the Philadephia Eagles. If the Seahawks lost at least one of their games, the Vikings would be the sixth seed and would travel back to Ford Field to face the Lions for the third time in four weeks.

Neither scenario looks terribly favorable for the depleted Vikings roster should they make the playoffs, but given all the injuries and bad luck the Vikings have dealt with this season, just making the playoffs would be an achievement.

But for now, the Vikings need to game plan for the Packers on Sunday, including naming a starting quarterback and making some other starting personnel decisions as they continue to deal with injuries.

Stay tuned.

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