Vikings Bafflingly Remain In Playoff Contention

Sam Bradford, confused, but in a Vikings uniform (Original photo credit: NFL Gamepass Screenshot)

(NOTE: A previous version of this story featured an image of Sam Bradford in a Rams uniform. We have updated the story and regret the error).

Whether or they deserve it, the Vikings are somehow in the playoff race—though not without some serious help.

And “help” here means some pretty incredible bounces of the ball.

The Vikings can only compete for a Wild Card spot, having ceded all the divisional tiebreakers to the Lions, who could finish with the same record as the Vikings but would take the division over them in that scenario.

One interesting thing that they need to avoid is a three-way tie with the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, because the Vikings place third in their division in that scenario—which pushes them out of the sixth seed, because the fifth seed has been locked up by the New York Giants.

That means the Vikings will want the Lions to win one of their next two games (against the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers) so that the Lions can secure the division and prevent a three-way tiebreaker from taking effect. If the Vikings are in a two-way tie with the Packers, the Vikings come out on top because the procedures there are different and the Vikings in this scenario have the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Aside from that, Tampa Bay needs to lose both of their next games and Washington has to lose one of their next two games. Or, in table form:

Vikings Playoff Path
Team Outcomes Week 16 Opponent Week 17 Opponent
Minnesota Vikings Win 2 of 2 Green Bay Packers Chicago Bears
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lose 2 of 2 New Orleans Saints Carolina Panthers
Detroit Lions Win 1 of 2 Dallas Cowboys Green Bay Packers
Washington Redskins Lose 1 of 2 Chicago Bears New York Giants

Even if every game was favored for the Vikings by a large amount (say a 2/3rds chance in each individual game), the odds are long—close to 15 percent.

More realistically, using simple models, it looks like the Vikings have a 1-2.5% chance of all of those outcomes.

Still, if you’re the kind of person that hopes… there you go.


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