Vikings Must Hold Off One Team for Playoff Berth

How Will Jefferson’s Return Impact Vikings Offense?
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) stiff arms Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III (24) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings remain in firm command of playoff positioning after tallying a 5-1 record in the last six weeks. Per ESPN, the purple team has a 78.0% probability of reaching the playoffs.

And to stay there, Minnesota must hold off one NFC foe — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Vikings Must Hold Off One Team for Playoff Berth

The Vikings have a 1.5-game lead in the NFC’s playoff picture over Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers are within striking distance for two reasons:

  1. They own the tiebreaker over Minnesota.
  2. The Buccaneers’ schedule is easy.
Vikings Must Hold Off
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) leaves the field after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Indeed, Tampa Bay took down Minnesota to start the 2023 season at U.S. Bank Stadium, the one Vikings loss to date that is truly unexplainable. At relative full strength per health, Minnesota should’ve taken care of business out of the gate. It did not, however, and now must worry about the Buccaneers in the next several weeks.

In a nutshell, the Buccaneers are not formidable or anxiety-inducing. They just lost to the San Francisco 49ers 27-14 in Week 11 and don’t have much palpable momentum to get cooking.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) dives for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III (24) and defensive end Logan Hall (90) in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Yet, Tampa Bay does have a piece-of-cake schedule remaining in 2023. Here’s the lay of the land for the Buccaneers:

  • Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 13: vs. Carolina Panthers
  • Week 14: at Atlanta Falcons
  • Week 15: at Green Bay Packers
  • Week 16: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Week 17: vs. New Orleans Saints
  • Week 18: at Carolina Panthers

That’s close to as leisurely as it gets for the rest of the regular season and only outdone for easiness on the schedule by the Atlanta Falcons, a squad with a laughably easy docket remaining.

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles during NFL football practice, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Zedaker/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports.

Therefore, depending on how frisky the Buccaneers become, Minnesota must routinely peer in the rearview at Tampa Bay. If the clubs end 2023 with the same record, the Buccaneers will visit the postseason tournament, and the Vikings will not — because of the Week 1 tiebreaker.

Think of it this way: If the Vikings finish the rest of the season with a 3-3 record, the Buccaneers must go 5-2 from here on out. Or if Minnesota collapses to the tune of 2-4, Tampa Bay must finish 4-3.

Vikings CB1 Played
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Other teams treading water behind Minnesota and Tampa Bay include the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, and Atlanta Falcons. The difference, though, is the Vikings’ tiebreaker standing at the moment. Minnesota holds favorable tiebreakers over all three clubs.

But it does not with Tampa Bay.


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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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