It’s the easiest year in recent memory for calculating Minnesota Vikings playoff scenarios because, ironically, thanks to their tie, they are not subject to any tiebreakers with competing teams — unless those teams end up tying…
The clinching scenario is mostly simple for the coming week, but it could get convoluted if things fall a certain way. Here are the various scenarios to keep in mind heading into Week 16.
VIKINGS CAN CLINCH PLAYOFF BERTH WITH:
-Washington Redskins LOSS @ Tennessee Titans (on Saturday)
-Vikings WIN @ Detroit Lions
-Philadelphia Eagles LOSS vs Houston Texans
A Vikings (7-6-1) win at Ford Field would officially eliminate the Carolina Panthers (6-8), while losses by the Eagles (7-7) and Redskins (7-7) would move the Vikings 1.5 games ahead of the field with one game to play.
WHAT ABOUT THE 5-SEED?
The Seattle Seahawks’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers opened the door for the Vikings to nab the 5-seed. If the Vikings beat the Lions and the Chiefs go the Seattle and knock off the Seahawks (8-6), then Minnesota will have a great chance to avoid the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round and play the Dallas Cowboys instead.
The Cowboys (8-6) are essentially locked into the 4-seed after last week’s results. Dallas’s loss to Indianapolis coupled with Chicago’s win over Green Bay moved the Cowboys two games behind the Bears (10-4), but they are still secure as the NFC East leaders by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles and divisional tiebreaker over the Redskins. Most Vikings fans would probably prefer a trip to Dallas over a return to Chicago, where the team lost in Week 11.
WEEK 17 CAKEWALK?
Not so fast. Many assumed the Bears would be resting starters against the Vikings in Week 17, but they suddenly find themselves one game behind the Los Angeles Rams (11-3) for the 2-seed and an outside shot at a bye. Barring a Bears loss at San Francisco and a Rams win at Arizona on Sunday, Chicago would still be in the running for a bye when Week 17 comes around.
WAIT, THE VIKINGS COULD GET ELIMINATED?
Sort of. The Vikings could be virtually eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday if the following were to occur:
-Washington Redskins WIN @ Tennessee Titans (on Saturday)
-Vikings LOSS @ Detroit Lions
-Philadelphia Eagles WIN vs Houston Texans
-Seattle Seahawks WIN vs Kansas City Chiefs
-Dallas Cowboys WIN vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This scenario would make Seattle and Dallas uncatchable and would vault Washington and Philadelphia above the Vikings in the Wild Card standings. Since they play each other in Week 17, it’s likely one of them would win and clinch at 9-7. The only hope for the Vikings, in that case, would be to beat the Bears in Week 17 and have the Eagles and Redskins tie, creating a trio of teams at 8-7-1. The Eagles head-to-head winning percentage over the Redskins would knock Washington out of the tiebreaker, and the Vikings head-to-head win against Philadelphia would make them the Wild Card team.
If you’re perplexed, just think of it in the simplest terms: the Vikings still control their own destiny. Wins in the final two games of the season make all of the scoreboard watching a moot point and put the Vikings into the playoffs.