Vikings playoff chances: How Minnesota can earn NFC wild card in NFL playoff picture

The Vikings (7-8) are fighting for their fading NFL playoff hopes in Week 17. Minnesota is just below. 500 and can think about what could have been as the team has gone 6-8 in one-possession games during the 2021 season.

Unfortunately, the Vikings will finish far behind the NFC North-winning Packers (12-3) again. Minnesota will need to try to stay alive against Green Bay on Sunday night, without starting QB Kirk Cousins. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers also will be motivated at Lambeau Field as they vie for the No. 1 seed.

Here’s breaking down Minnesota’s dim outlook as it tries to avoid a second consecutive losing and non-playoff season under Mike Zimmer

Vikings playoff chances

The Vikings are No. 8 in their current playoff position, just behind the No. 6 49ers (8-7) and No. 7 Eagles (8-7). Minnesota is tied but just ahead of Atlanta and Minnesota based on tiebreakers.

First, the Vikings cannot expect to get into the playoffs by losing one of its two remaining games, at the Packers and vs. the Bears (5-10). Although there’s a chance both the 49ers and Eagles could go 0-2, it’s slim. So any Vikings finish short of 2-0 and 9-8 should remove them from consideration.

As it stands, Minnesota has little more than a 10 percent chance to make the playoffs. A major upset win over the Packers would push that toward a coin flip. A loss to the Packers can eliminate the Vikings, if it would be coupled by wins by the Eagles (at Washington) and 49ers (vs. Houston), who are significant favorites in their games.

Head-to-head wise, the Vikings lost to the 49ers in Week 12. If the Eagles and Vikings, who didn’t play each other, both finish 9-8, they would have matching 7-5 records, but the Vikings would be positioned to have the common games tiebreaker. The Vikings have a similar edge over the Saints (7-8), whom they also didn’t play, should both of those teams finish 2-0. 

The Saints, who also lose a head-to-head tiebreaker to Eagles because they lost at Philadelphia in Week 11, will be playing for a three-way tie at 9-8 so they can edge both the Eagles and Vikings via the strength-of-victory tiebreaker.

If the Vikings lose to the Packers and the Eagles beat Washington, they would be eliminated. But there’s a good chance for chaos in Minnesota’s favor should it win at Green Bay. It serves as the Vikings’ de facto play-in playoff game, and they will need to do it with Sean Manning starting in place of Cousins.

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