At 6-7, Vikings Would Make History with a Deep Playoff Run

At 6-7, Vikings Would Make History if They Made a Deep Playoff Run
Kirk Cousins

Little precedent exists for a 6-7 team to make a run deep into the playoffs. Since the NFL expanded to six teams per conference in the postseason in 1990, just 13.4% of 6-7 teams went on for a playoff football experience.

Of course, the NFL expanded the playoff format to seven teams per conference last year, so that percentage will slacken a bit in the coming years. And even last year, the Washington Football Team and Chicago Bears (both 6-7 through 13 games) visited the playoffs, losing in the first round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, respectively.

If the Vikings somehow got hot all the way to the NFC Championship or beyond in 2021 from their current 6-7 standing, they’d become the first NFC team in NFL history to do so. Right now, the only NFL team in league history to achieve a conference championship after a 6-7 start was the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars. That squad was quarterbacked by Mark Brunell, outfitted with playmakers like Natrone Means, Jimmy Smith, and Keenan McCardell. Yes, that’s the same McCardell who currently coaches the Vikings wide receivers.

Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are a strange team through 13 games in 2021. They toppled the Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Chargers, and nearly beat the Arizona Cardinals. Then, they lost to the winless Detroit Lions on the road and almost lost to Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium. Most recently, Minnesota was damn close to squandering a 29-0 lead against the Steelers.

It’s madness.

Mike Zimmer’s team leads the NFL in sacks, has thrown the fewest interceptions, and is fourth in the business for total yards on offense. Conversely. the rush defense is abysmal, and teams score at the end of the 1st Half against Minnesota as sure as the sun rises.

With the cliche any given Sunday, the Vikings can find triumph over the best teams in the NFL while burrowing down in the dirt with the bottom-feeders. For that reason, Zimmer’s job security is sketchy.

The only sure-thing for Zimmer’s employment into the 2022 season is a deep playoff push in 2021, likely involving a postseason win and perhaps two. Two wins would plop the Vikings in the NFC Championship, but spitballing that less than a week after losing to the Lions seems farcical.

The Vikings hold 35% odds to enter the postseason at the moment. That percentage was devastated by the loss at Detroit. However, Minnesota almost controls its fate, needing to win three out of the final four games for playoff entry. Running the table would effectively guarantee playoff football. Winning 75% of the remaining games is close to automatic entry.

The trek begins in Week 15 when the Vikings travel to Soldier Field for a bout with the nemesis Bears (4-8), a team relishing a spoiler role. A loss at Chicago would sink the Vikings playoff probability to a meager 12%.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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