By the Numbers, Vikings Now More Likely to Reach Playoffs than the Chiefs

Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; The Kansas City Chiefs mascot KC Wolf entertains fans during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It may not feel like it emotionally because the Kansas City Chiefs employ boy wonder Patrick Mahomes, but by the numbers, the Minnesota Vikings are more likely to reach the postseason than their Missourian interconference counterpart.

This is not a declaration implying the Vikings are better than the Chiefs. Don’t get it twisted. Instead, perceive the mathematical probabilities in favor of Minnesota over Kansas City as a synopsis of the land lay amid the NFC and AFC.

The AFC is currently crowded for playoff contenders.

That’s a lot of beef vying for seven spots while poor teams (Jaguars, Dolphins, Texans, Jets) are stranded at the bottom of the conference with one win apiece.

The NFC is more navigable.

Unexpectedly, the Vikings are not in rough shape at all with a 3-3 record. Teams that were forecasted to be good – the Seahawks, 49ers, perhaps Panthers – are suddenly not daunting. And because the AFC is packed with good teams and the NFC pales in comparison, the Vikings have a more reasonable shot by the numbers to wiggle into meaningful January football.

Per FiveThirtyEight.com, Minnesota possesses a 45% probability to reach the playoffs, whereas the Chiefs are a notch below at 44%. On PlayoffStatus.com, the Vikings are “sitting pretty” after an 0-2 start with a 34% chance of reaching the postseason, while the Chiefs are stuck at 26%. With the New York Times interactive predictor model for the playoffs, the Vikings are 43%, and the Chiefs are 42%.

Knowing what is obvious now with the Chiefs struggles, the only spots on the Chiefs roster that are outlandishly superior to the Vikings are quarterback, tight end, and kicker. The rest is either a draw, so to speak, or advantage Vikings.

In years past, Mahomes has performed so otherworldly that it didn’t really matter if segments of the Chiefs were lousy. But in 2021, Kansas City is paying the piper. The Chiefs, as of October 24, are the worst in the NFL for giveaways and yards per play allowed. Put bluntly, they’re turning over the ball profusely and surrendering yards to the opposition at an alarming rate.

The Vikings evened up their 2021 season at a desperate time. The head coach, Mike Zimmer, faces a pivotal season – and things got off to a nasty start when Minnesota choked away two winnable games in Week 1 and 2. Since then, though, the Vikings posted a 3-1 record in the last four weeks, dragging the win-loss back to .500.

Most folks won’t classify the Vikings as a surer bet than the Chiefs to reach the playoffs, and that is fair. Yet, the Vikings [at the moment] have a better football team per the depth chart. Ordinarily, Mahomes deodorizes a football team’s shortcomings. That isn’t working in 2021. Plus, Mahomes’ offense is handing the ball to teams via turnover. If they cannot curtail one or both of these tendencies, indeed, the Vikings are a safer bet to play postseason football than the Chiefs.

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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