It’s that time of the week again where we look at where the Vikings currently stand in their playoffs aspirations and what needs to happen to seal the deal. Although the Vikings were unable to, against all odds, go into Arizona and beat the Cardinals, their playoff situation didn’t get worse. Most of the other teams that needed to lose did, increasing the likelihood of a Vikings playoff berth.
As of right now (pre-Week 15), according to the NY Times Playoff Simulator, the Vikings make the playoffs in 90% of [144,000] simulations. That’s actually 5% higher than where we were before Week 14 despite the Vikings not winning their game.
However, between last week and this week, the Vikings did drop from the fifth seed to the sixth. This is because the Seahawks were able to [handily] beat the Ravens and move to 8-5 themselves. As you know, likely despite your efforts to erase it from your memory, the Seahawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. This means that the Vikings drop a spot, drastically altering their course once they’re in the playoffs. (Adam Patrick did an excellent job earlier this week of outlining the preferred seed.)
But let’s go ahead and kick things off by recapping last week and see what went right and what went wrong.
What Happened: Week 14
Vikings at Cardinals: Needed a Vikings win. Vikings lose.
Seahawks at Ravens: Needed a Ravens win. Ravens lose.
Falcons at Panthers: Needed a Panthers win. Panthers win!
Redskins at Bears: We didn’t care. Redskins win!
49ers at Browns: Wanted a Browns win. Browns win!
Bills at Eagles: Needed a Bills win. Eagles win!
Lions at Rams: Wanted a Lions win. Lions lose.
Saints at Buccaneers: Needed a Saints win. Saints win!
Cowboys at Packers: Needed a Cowboys win. Cowboys lose.
Giants at Dolphins: Needed a Dolphins win. Dolphins lose.
So, when all was said and done, we ended up going 5-5. Although the Packers not losing makes our path to winning the division more difficult (although the Vikings are still in the drivers seat), the other losses we took didn’t hurt our playoff odds too much. The big ones that we needed (the Falcons losing and the Buccaneers losing) both happened which makes it much easier for the Vikings to obtain a wildcard spot. Two teams in the NFC East are technically still in contention for a wildcard spot but they are both two games behind the Vikings and one of them is the Giants, who the Vikings play in Week 16.
With each passing week, the playoff picture is becoming more and more clear. Let’s take a look at where things stand now:
- [z] Panthers (13-0-0)
- [x]Cardinals (11-2-0)
- Packers (9-4-0)
- Redskins (6-7-0)
- Seahawks (8-5-0)
- Vikings (8-5-0)
[z] Clinched first-round bye [/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″]
- [y] Patriots (11-2-0)
- Bengals (10-3-0)
- Broncos (10-3-0)
- Colts (6-7-0)
- Chiefs (8-5-0)
- Jets (8-5-0)
[x] Clinched playoff berth [/vc_column][/vc_row]
The Vikings are now in a position where they can actually clinch a playoff spot this weekend. If they are able to beat the Chicago Bears, a playoff spot is guaranteed if any of the following four scenarios happens:
- A Buccaneers loss or tie + Redskins loss or tie + Falcons loss or tie
- A Buccaneers loss or tie + Redskins loss or tie + Seahawks loss or tie
- A Buccaneers loss or tie + Giants loss or tie + Falcons loss or tie
- A Buccaneers loss or tie + Giants loss or tie + Seahawks loss or tie
Some of these scenarios seem more likely than others. We can basically cross out #2 and #4 considering it requires the Seahawks losing to the Browns. The Giants host the Panthers in what will likely be a Giants loss. The Redskins will play the Bills in another favorable matchup for the Vikings. Finally, the Falcons travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, which Atlanta could very easily end up losing. Of the four scenarios, I think the most likely to happen is #3.
What We Want: Week 15
Buccaneers at Rams: Rams Win
Because this article is a day late, we already know the outcome of this game. The Rams stomping of the Buccaneers last night puts the Vikings in an even better playoff position. As you likely noticed in the clinching scenarios above, the Buccaneers losing was in all four. Now that this has happened, we can focus on the other games.
Bears at Vikings: Vikings Win
If the Vikings win this weekend, regardless of what happens in the other games, they make the playoffs in 99% of scenarios. It’s that simple. Now, we still need those other things to happen to actually clinch a spot but, nevertheless, it’s a done deal if we can beat Chicago for a second time this year.
Panthers at Giants: Panthers Win
At this point, the Panthers are in prime position to have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. In fact, they can clinch it this weekend with a win over the Giants and a Cardinals loss. I expect the Panthers to come out swinging to try and lock down this major advantage. Luckily for us, the Giants losing puts us one step closer to clinching.
Bills at Redskins: Bills Win
Another game that impacts the Vikings clinching a playoff spot, though this one will likely be a little closer than Panthers at Giants.
Falcons at Jaguars: Jaguars Win
After starting the season 5-0, the Falcons have plummeted to 6-7 and are now facing elimination from the playoff picture. A month or two ago, this would have been a lock for an easy Falcons win. However, the Falcons have been playing like one of the worst teams in the league and could probably (and would probably) lose to anyone.
Browns at Seahawks: Browns Win
I mean, we can dream… right? It feels futile to waste any energy cheering for the Browns in this one but a very unlikely Seahawks loss would increase the Vikings seed to #5 and likely give them an easier route through the playoffs.
Packers at Raiders: Raiders Win
The Vikings still control their own destiny when it comes to winning the division. If they win out, which includes beating the Packers at Lambeau in Week 17, the Vikings win the NFC North. However, it would help greatly if the Raiders could squeak out a win. But even with a Raiders win, the Vikings would still need to win at Lambeau. (Unless the Packers were to lose again in Week 16.)
Cardinals at Eagles: Cardinals Win
At this point, the Vikings are not able to get a bye in the playoffs. If they were still able to, it would make sense to want the Cardinals to lose this one. However, since it is not possible, it’s more beneficial to hope the Eagles lose which just creates more separation between the Vikings and another NFC East team that’s technically still in the hunt.
Alright, so let’s recap: We want the Vikings, Rams (done!), Panthers, Bills, Jaguars, Browns, Raiders and Cardinals to all win. If all of that happens, the Vikings have a:
- >99% chance of making the playoffs
- 27% chance of winning the division
- 0% chance of a first round bye
- 0% chance of the #1 seed
If things go bad and the exact opposite of everything we want happens? Well, then the Vikings would have a:
- 97% chance of making the playoffs
- 24% chance of winning the division
So, as you can see from the above odds, there isn’t a whole lot that could happen this weekend that really swings things. The worst case scenario is a difference in 2% of the Vikings making the playoffs and 3% winning the division. This is just proof that the Vikings really are, as cliche as it may be, in control of their own destiny.
Hopefully next week we’ll be talking about our path through the playoffs because we’ll have clinched a wildcard spot.
Until then, Go Raiders!