Path to the Playoffs: Week 15, Do or Die

The Vikings are still very much in this thing. I know some of you out there don’t believe that. I know as a Vikings fan it’s hard to be an optimist and you feel like we have no chance with Christian Ponder at the helm, but the Vikings still have a good chance to make the playoffs.

Obviously, they will have to win out. That alone is going to be difficult. While the Vikings have what some consider to be a ‘winnable’ game this week against the St. Louis Rams, it is an away game. And we are a horrible visiting team for whatever reason. But if the Vikings want to make it to the postseason, they’ll have to not lose another game in the 2012 season. I don’t think that they could take a loss and still be in the race – mathematically… I haven’t verified that information, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that with a loss at St. Louis Sunday, the Vikings have been eliminated from the picture.

The Vikings could even win the NFC North. I know, crazy right? But it is very possible if the Vikings win out and a couple of things happen.

So, instead of doing the usual where we just go through what teams we want to lose, let’s talk about how the Vikings could actually walk away from this season the NFC North Champions. (And then we’ll wake up and move on to the wild card.)

How the Vikings Can Win the NFCN.

If the Vikings win this weekend against the Rams and the Bears beat the Packers in Chicago, it gets pretty interesting. (By the way, you can simulate all this stuff using ESPN’s Playoff Machine. It’s pretty awesome.) It would put the Vikings one game behind both the Packers and the Bears who would be tied for first place in the division. The following week both the Bears and the Packers could win and the Vikings could still have a shot at the division title. Here’s why: In the final week of the season, the Packers play the Vikings at home and the Bears play the Lions in Detroit. If the Vikings won and the Bears lost, that would give the Vikes the division title. Why? Well the tiebreaking procedure within the division goes like this:

  1. Head to head (This would be a tie with both the Packers and the Bears.)
  2. Division record (If things played out how I outlined them above, we would have the upper-hand here against the Bears. We would tie with the Packers and move on to the next tiebreaker which is…)
  3. Best common game record (The Vikings would win this tiebreaker over the Packers.)

Crazy, right? While it’s pretty farfetched, it’s pretty cool to know that it could happen. Will it? Probably not. And if we are to get into the playoffs it will likely be through the wild card spot. But, it’s interesting nonetheless.

Okay, so now that we’ve passed all that delusion, let’s look at the current playoff picture and the conference as it stands today.

NFC Playoff Picture

  1. Atlanta Falcons (11-2) / Clinched Division
  2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)
  3. Green Bay Packers (9-4)
  4. New York Giants (8-5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Chicago Bears (8-5)
  7. Washington Redskins (7-6)
  8. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
  9. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
  10. St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
  12. New Orleans Saints (5-8)
  13. Carolina Panthers (4-9)
  14. Detroit Lions (4-9)
  15. Arizona Cardinals (4-9)
  16. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) / Already lost this week to the Bengals on Thursday Night Football.

Who We Want To Lose

Green Bay at Chicago / Bears loss.
This is actually kind of a tough one… On one hand, we could try and go for broke and hope to win the division like I stated above. The other, more sane, scenario is to root for the Packers to win (barf) and let them take the division while we push Chicago out of the wildcard spot. If we were to win this weekend the Bears were to lose, we would be tied at 8-6. We would be a wash with the head-to-head tiebreaker but would surpass them with a better division record. If Washington and Dallas were also to lose, we would launch right up into a wildcard spot. So, I’m going to say, let’s root for Chicago to lose this weekend. Either way, I guess it’s a win/win for Vikings fans.

New York Giants at Atlanta / Atlanta loss.
I could be wrong here but I think it works better for us if the Giants go ahead and win their division instead losing and getting into a three-way rat race with the Redskins and Cowboys…

Washington at Cleveland / Redskins loss!
Easy one here… We really need the Redskins to lose. With RGIII likely out this weekend and Kirk Cousins starting in his place, it’s not unlikely that the Redskins lose this game. Let’s hope that’s the case. (Despite the fact that I need RGIII to be playing and blow up so I can destroy this week’s opponent in my fantasy league’s playoffs.)

Tampa Bay at New Orleans / Buccaneers loss.
Technically, we shouldn’t even be worrying about this game. Both teams have worse records than us and assuming we win out, like weneed to, their records won’t matter. But, for the sake of rooting against someone, let’s do the Buccaneers since they are only a game behind us where as the Saints are two.

Seattle at Buffalo / Seahawks loss!
We are Bills fans this week. We need the Seahawks to lose. Even if they did, they’d still hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over us. But still, against an AFC opponent, we definitely want them to be beaten in Buffalo this weekend.

Pittsburgh at Dallas / Cowboys loss.
The Cowboys are horrible at home and we need it to remain that way this weekend. The Cowboys are currently tied with the Vikings at 7-6 but somehow beat us through the tiebreakers. (Not sure which tiebreaker it is but I’m assuming it’s the similar opponents record as we haven’t played the Cowboys and are currently tied with them in division records.)

Here’s what it comes down to this weekend. If the Vikings win and the Bears and the Redskins lose, the Vikings will have the 6th seed for the playoffs (wildcard) for at least a week. Pretty awesome, huh?

As usual, I’ll highlight the more important games above. Obviously, most importantly, the Vikings need to win in St. Louis tomorrow.

But let’s just cross our fingers and hope everything else tomorrow falls in our favor.