The Vikings’ “Easy” Path to Postseason

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The Minnesota Vikings own a 7-7 record after 15 weeks, fully aboard a rollercoaster season stuffed to the gills with close games, injuries, and out-of-nowhere transactions.

Four NFC teams have a 7-7 record at the moment, meaning the Vikings’ playoff hopes can go either way, a true coinflip, according to almost any postseason probability calculator.

The Vikings’ “Easy” Path to Postseason

And if Minnesota is in the mood to play postseason football — it would mark the team’s first back-to-back playoff appearances since 2008 and 2009 — the assignment is simple. Win two home games, and that’s probably enough to get in the dance.

Path to Postseason
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Thankfully for the Vikings’ sake, a fabulous 6-3 record against NFC opponents is on their side. If playoff qualification boils down to a multi-team tiebreaker, NFC records would be examined, and these are such marks among Wildcard hopefuls:

  • Vikings: 6-3
  • Rams: 5-4
  • Seahawks: 6-5
  • Saints: 4-5
  • Falcons: 4-6
  • Packers: 4-5

Of course, Minnesota could decide to lose one home game while offsetting the loss by beating the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Week 18. That’s certainly possible. It’s just that winning at home in the next two weeks is the easier path.

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Winning games in Weeks 16 and 17 at home — versus the Lions and Packers — would nudge the conference record to 8-3, and no team beneath the Rams on the list above could overcome it. It’s that simple.

The mission statement: win two games at U.S. Bank Stadium, and the club shall dance into the postseason.

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Life would’ve been much simpler had Minnesota defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. The Vikings carried a 17-3 lead into the 4th Quarter at Paycor Stadium, and all was well. But the Vikings’ defense, in particular, coughed away the win, allowing the Bengals to author three 70+ yard touchdown drives immediately after gaining the 17-3 lead.

The Vikings, while leading 17-3, went from “Close this thing out, don’t lose your final three games, and you’re in the playoffs” to “You’ve gotta win two of the next three games, pal.”

Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) kicks a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter against the Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

That gaffe is in the rearview now — much like the club had to put a miserable Monday Night Football loss at home to the Chicago Bears behind it — and the here and now is the next three games. So far in 2023, the Vikings hold a 2-4 record at home, and when the 2023 season is over, it would make a lot more sense that Kevin O’Connell’s team finished .500 at home — not 2-6 or 3-5.

The best game going in town is clear and evident: Take care of business on your home turf, and the Vikings will head to Detroit, Philadelphia, or Dallas for a Wildcard showdown.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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