Here’s How the Vikings Can Make the Playoffs
The Minnesota Vikings were forecasted to win about nine games when oddsmakers evaluated the 2020 season. This was the same prognosis afforded to the Green Bay Packers. All was well in the gridiron world. No fan or pundit had dreamt of a Danielle Hunter injury. The lack of homefield advantage was not fully studied. Yannick Ngakoue was supposed to flank the defensive line for a panic-fueled final product aimed at quarterbacks. Anthony Barr’s pectoral muscles were intact. The acquisition of Michael Pierce was a clock reset on Linval Joseph as both men are big-bodied nose tackles. The most intriguing “concern” was how profitable Justin Jefferson would be early on. Would he take a while to settle into the Vikings offense? How does 700 receiving yards for the totality of 2020 sound?
Instead, Jefferson has positively answered all questions surrounding his youthful name while the rest of the aforementioned items fell by the wayside.
The Vikings possess a stale 4-6 record. In most seasons, analysts would glance at a 4-6 record, giggle, and relegate the team to “maybe next year.” But it’s 2020 and 4-6 teams remain alive. Both conferences, AFC and NFC, permanently added an extra playoff seed. Seven teams will make the playoffs from each conference going forward. And, if the coronavirus causes more games to cancel, the NFL might even add two more teams to the mix.
Ergo, here are the Vikings scenarios to slide into six or seven seed for January.
‘Just Win Baby’ Approach
Before Week 12, the Vikings have a 19% chance to make the postseason. Fivethirtyeight.com tabulates every team’s postseason prognosis, and the Vikings have a one-in-five shot at the damn thing. That is based on “how things are currently going.”
Winning – obviously – will make this journey stress-free. If the Vikings run the table and topple the Panthers, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Bears, Saints, and Lions – they will be going to the playoffs. In a year with six teams per conference reaching the postseason, a 10-6 squad missing the big dance would be odd. The expansion to seven teams per conference nearly guarantees a 10-6 team will play meaningful January football.
Now, the Vikings just have to go win six straight games. Easy, right?
Cardinals .500 Approach
The most realistic pathway to the postseason for Minnesota is a mini-collapse by the Arizona Cardinals. When Kyler Murray found De’Andre Hopkins in the endzone on his Hail Murray a couple of weeks ago, a sentiment was cemented that they were heading to the playoffs. That’s what momentum does for the national media.
Arizona could very well do that, but they must continue to win and stave off the Vikings and Bears. Chicago is probably turning back to Mitchell Trubisky (stop your laughing) in hopes of stopping the bloodletting. The Bears have lost four consecutive games – not exactly a playoff-worthy ordeal.
For this method, the Vikings will need to finish the season 5-1. That likely entails a loss to either the Buccaneers or Saints. You can choose the culprit. Then, Arizona must bumble to a 3-3 finish. The Cardinals remaining schedule: Patriots, Rams, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Rams. Three losses must be extracted from that menu.
In a nutshell – the Vikings must finish 5-1 whereas the Cardinals go 3-3.
This one developed when the Buccaneers fell at home to the Rams on Monday night. Suddenly, Tampa Bay is composed of mere mortals. Bruce Arians’ gang is 7-4, which certainly feels like a driver’s-seat situation. Yet, a deeper dive reveals kryptonite.
This weekend, the Buccaneers will host the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s a squad that has the probable MVP in Patrick Mahomes, and they are the reigning Super Bowl champions. It will not be wholly stunning if Tampa Bay rebounds and upset the Chiefs, but it’s a longshot. The Chiefs are playing upper-echelon football, and it almost looks effortless.
If the Buccaneers are slain by the Chiefs, their record drops to 7-5 as they enter a Week 13 bye. Yes, that is rather late in the season for a week off. After that, the Buccaneers [and their two-week losing streak] stay home and host your Minnesota Vikings. That contest will have all the ingredients of a typical Vikings loss: Tom Brady, outdoor venue, grass surface, not a noon game, and team with a winning record. Don’t bet the farm.
However, if the Vikings find triumph in Tampa Bay (and beat the Panthers and Jaguars), they would hold a 7-6 record. Guess who else would have that record? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Instantly, the Vikings would hold the tiebreaker having defeated the Buccaneers. Minnesota would control its destiny. Minnesota will finish 2020 against the Bears, Saints, and Lions. Tampa Bay’s final three contests are versus the Falcons, Lions, and Falcons again.
All in all, it’s time to win games and avoid kerfuffles like the Cowboys turd.