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What Does the Vikings Playoff Picture Look Like?

For the second week in a row, games not involving the Minnesota Vikings played out favorably. The Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears were losers in Week 13 – all teams with reasonable hopes of snatching the NFC’s No. 7 seed in the playoff hunt. The Vikings pinched away a victory from the plebian Jacksonville Jaguars, an outcome that is better than losing a contest to a 1-10 team. Minnesota’s win inspired a razor-thin shred of optimism that the team might knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. Bruce Arians and Tom Brady will provide a formidable test – to say the least – as the Buccaneers have lost two straight contests. Plus, they’ve had a bye week to stew over their misery.

If the NFL regular season was canceled this moment, the Vikings would travel to Green Bay for a wildcard postseason showdown. That invokes mixed emotions for Vikings loyalists. On one hand, Minnesota proved they could hang tough and topple the Packers mere weeks ago. Contrarily, it’s Lambeau Field in January. The last time the Vikings undertook the challenge of a playoff game in Wisconsin, Joe Webb was the signal-caller. The anemic Vikings were defeated 24-10 despite boasting the league’s MVP in Adrian Peterson. The 2020 Vikings will not have a league MVP, but they could possibly bring the Offensive Rookie of the Year to Lambeau if OROY voters are genteel to Justin Jefferson.

Clinging to a seven-seed is not simplistic. A month’s worth of winning is necessary. Even then, other NFC suitors must keep their respective performances relatively low-octane for the Vikings to complete a rags-to-riches midseason metamorphosis.

Cardinals Must Match Vikings Losses

As a general rule of thumb for the rest of the way, the Cardinals must have one loss to accompany each hypothetical Vikings loss. Minnesota holds the tiebreaker — for now – based on “wins tie break based on best win percentage in common games.” Don’t take this to the bank on a weekly basis, though. If the Vikings lose in Tampa Bay, the Giants beat the Cardinals, and San Francisco beats Washington in Week 14, the Cardinals will regain the No. 7 seed while holding the same 6-7 record as the Vikings. The “common games” tiebreaker is a fluidly-readjusting metric.

To be “safe,” the Vikings should probably finish the 2020 season with one more win than the Cardinals. But in most scenarios, Minnesota would be the seventh-seed if the Vikings and Cardinals end the season with the same record. Should the two teams tie in wins and losses, take out a pencil and calculate both teams’ records against mutual opponents. It’s weird, but it will get you a verdict.

Stave Off the 5-7 Teams

In any playoff hunt, a team could get white-hot and win all of its remaining games. That includes the teams that are in less-than-desirable spots right now. At 5-7, the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Football Team sit one game back of the Vikings and Cardinals, who are both 6-6. Any of these teams could win four consecutive games and would bombastically return to the hunt for the seventh-seed. The 49ers or Football Team will likely exit this idealistic territory in Week 14 because the teams play each other.

The Vikings “only lose one more game” strategy is predicated on Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, or Washington not running the table. A four-game win streak by one or some of these teams would potentially be a blow to the Vikings. Keep an eye on them.

Trip to GB, NO, or SEA Basically a Lock

There are few outcomes in gridiron orbit where the Vikings could travel to Los Angeles for a date with the Rams during wildcard weekend. It is the least likely prognosis, but the math is indeed there for inquiring minds.

The betting money is on the Vikings embarking to Green Bay, New Orleans, or Seattle should they reach the postseason. Minnesota beat the Packers in Green Bay two months ago. The Vikings habitually boggle the Saints minds. The Seahawks host the Vikings as frequently as Halloween shows up on your office calendar. Seattle poses the gravest test because the Vikings have never solved Russell Wilson. He is 7-0 versus the Vikings. Based on wins and losses, that is the most dominant win percentage the Vikings have ever encountered against a single quarterback. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, too, own(ed) the Vikings, but neither player made seven starts against Minnesota.

Cheer for the Vikings to revolutionize from their 1-5 start. After that, pray for their chances at Lambeau, Lumen, or the Superdome.

Dustin Baker

Writer. Host of Bleav in Vikings Podcast w/B-Mac & Baker.

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