Analysis

Minnesota Vikings Playoff History

Forget about the four Super Bowls. The Vikings have made the playoffs more times than you think.

Everyone knows that this could be the year the Minnesota Vikings become the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The chances get better with every win. This year’s squad rolled into the playoffs in style, earning a 13-3 record, NFC North Championship, and a first-round bye.

With a proven head coach, a talented young roster, and perhaps the most envious quarterback situation in the NFL, both the present and the future are looking bright for the Vikings franchise, while the rest of the teams in the division appear to be moving backwards.

The Packers’ playoff streak just ended after eight seasons, resulting in a mass transformation of the front office and coaching staff. The Lions just finished 9-7, fired their head coach, and have to be wondering why they gave their quarterback so much money. And the Bears? They’re simply “Da Bears.” They’re like the new Lions of old, I guess.

With how things have unfolded for the Vikings this season, it got me thinking — how have the Vikings stacked up against other NFL teams in terms of making the playoffs year-in and year-out since their inception? Here’s a quick run through the team’s history and its success in the postseason.

The Vikings’ inaugural season was 1961. The team’s first playoff appearance was seven years later in 1968 (a 24-14 road loss to the Baltimore Colts).

Minnesota would win its first playoff game the following season. On December 27th, 1969 the first NFL playoff game in the state of Minnesota (at Metropolitan Stadium), resulted in a 23-20 Vikings win over the Los Angeles Rams. The ’69 squad would lose two games later in the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance, a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Those were the two playoff appearances for the Vikings in the 1960’s. In the 1970’s Minnesota reached the postseason eight times.

Minnesota’s longest streak of consecutive playoffs appearances was from 1973-1978. The Vikings reached the postseason six straight seasons with Bud GrantFran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters leading the way. That team reached the NFC Championship Game in four of five seasons and reached three Super Bowls (in 1973, ’74, ’76), losing all three championship games.

1976 was the last time the Vikings reached the Super Bowl.

In the 1980s, the team reached the playoffs five times, and in the 90s, it qualified eight more times. Between the new millennium and 2010, the Vikings earned four playoff appearances, and since 2010, the team has reached the postseason three times.

Since the league merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970, the Vikings have qualified for the playoffs 27 times, 4th-most in the NFL.

In 57 years, the Vikings have appeared in the postseason 29 times, which is the 5th-most among active NFL teams. Only the New York Giants (32), Green Bay Packers (32), Dallas Cowboys (32), and Pittsburgh Steelers (31) have more playoff appearances. The Packers were established in 1919, the Giants in 1925, the Steelers in 1933, and the Cowboys in 1960.

The Vikings have made the playoffs in over half of their seasons; 50.9% of them to be exact. The only other NFL team with a higher percentage of playoff seasons in their existence is the Cowboys (56.1%).

The problem for Minnesota is they’ve won only 40.4% of their playoffs games. That’s the 7th-worst postseason winning percentage among NFL teams.

While the team has played in 47 postseason games, 7th-most among NFL franchises, the Vikings have the most playoff losses of all-time. Minnesota’s all-time playoff record is 19-28. The 28 losses are an NFL record. The Dallas Cowboys are only one behind, luckily, as they’ve lost 27 postseason matchups.

Although the Vikings have the most playoff losses ever, they do not have the lowest all-time winning percentage in the postseason. That honor belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals at .263 (5-14).

Prior to this year, the Vikings’ last playoff appearance was in 2015. A stunning 10-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (the Bud Grant in a t-shirt game) is still fresh in the minds of many current Vikings players.

This year, the opportunity is there for the players to redeem themselves. Armed with a first-round bye and home field advantage for at least one postseason game, the Vikings have the advantage of sitting back, getting healthy, and seeing how the Wild Card round plays out.

The Vikings will play either the Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams, or New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs. Minnesota played all three teams during the regular season, losing only to Carolina. Each potential opponent finished the season with an 11-5 record.

The Vikings will host the first ever NFL postseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, January 14th at 3:40pm.


Playoff stats via Pro-Football-Reference.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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4 Comments

  1. Of the nine head coaches in franchise history, only two never took a team to the playoffs: our first HC, Norm Van Brocklin, and our worst HC, one-year blunder, Les Steckel. The Vikings and the Steelers are the only teams since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to go no more than four seasons without a playoff appearance. I’ve said it before, the Vikings are one of the top ten NFL franchises of the post-merger era, or of the last 50, or 57, years.

    “The Vikings have made the playoffs in over half of their seasons; 50.9% of them to be exact. The only other NFL team with a higher percentage of playoff seasons in their existence is the Cowboys (56.1%).”

    If we just count the seasons from their first playoff appearance, 1966 for the Cowboys and ’68 for the Vikings, the percentages are even more impressive, 58% for the Vikes and 61.5% for the Boys. However, honesty, and awe, compel me to acknowledge the following. The Pittsburgh Steelers made only one playoff appearance during the first 40 years of their existence, so if we ignore that 1947 outlier altogether, the Steelers made the playoffs 29 times (I got my playoff appearance numbers from ProFootballReference.com, Sean) out of the next 46 years, or 63% of those seasons. Kinda nice picking the right head coach three times running, huh?

    1. Great stuff cka2nd! I can’t believe the Steelers made only 1 playoff appearance in 40 years, seems so unlike them. Cool stat about the Vikings & Steelers being the only teams to go no more than 4 seasons without a playoff appearance. It certainly looks like the Vikings are in good position to make a few consecutive postseason appearances, and (hopefully) improve their playoff winning %

      1. Yeah, as much as I’ve criticized Spielman in the past for specific decisions or tendencies, he and the front office have done one hell of a job putting this roster together, and Rob Brzezinski has done one hell of a job enabling us to keep not just the core of this team but a host of supporting players together for a four- to eight-year playoff window, depending on whether you start the clock from the re-signing of Kyle Rudolph (2014), Jarius Wright (2015) or Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo (2016, and thank you Rotoworld.com!). You can’t even date this window with the hiring of Mike Zimmer in 2014 because so many of these players were already on the roster. And, all caveats aside regarding the front-loading of contracts, we’ve got a more than workable core under contract through 2021. That doesn’t mean we should expect Kyle Sloter or some 2018 draftee to be our QB of the moment, though!!!! It’s Keenum, Brdigewater or Bradford, or we’ll have to go out and get a veteran to lead us to the Promised Land and back again.

        Gods, I wish the Saints had collapsed this year, because my ardor for Alex Smith and Tyrod Taylor has really cooled! Hmm, maybe if the Kraft-Belichick-Brady marriage is really on the rocks in New England, we can convince Brady to pull a Favre for us. Spitefulness aside, we’d be a better bet than the Bills, Dolphins or Jets.

        The Steelers have got to be the single greatest sports franchise turnaround in the history of the world, but I’m too lazy to research that assertion at the moment.

        1. Lol I don’t blame you.

          But yes what a job by Rick and Rob. It’s been tough to criticize them lately.

          That’s one option – get rid of all three QB’s and bring in Brady haha

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