If Vikings Reach Playoffs, They’ll Likely Face Familiar Foe

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Because of wins over the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and Atlanta Falcons in the last three weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have really enhanced their odds of reaching the postseason.

Playoff chatter seemed like a joke after Week 5 when Minnesota lost to Kansas City and fell to a terrible 1-4 record.

If Vikings Reach Playoffs, They’ll Likely Face Familiar Foe

But it’s not a joke anymore. Minnesota has a 71.6% playoff probability per ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). In fact, according to the FPI metric, the Vikings have a better chance at reaching the playoffs than the Seattle Seahawks, if that can be believed.

And if Kevin O’Connell’s team does complete this season’s turnaround, a familiar foe is likely to be waiting in the Wildcard Round — the Detroit Lions.

Likely Face Familiar
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The Vikings certainly aren’t a lock to play the Lions in the playoffs — or anybody, really — but based on Detroit’s schedule the rest of the way (it’s easy), Dan Campbell and Co. appear to be cruising toward the NFC’s No. 2 seed.

An nflfastR engineer, @mrcaseb, simulated the season’s remainder 50,000 times this week, and lo and behold, the Vikings would meet the Lions in Detroit. He captioned his tweet, “I have simulated the remainder of the NFL season for 50k times and looked for the most likely Wildcard rounds. The AFC Wildcard round could be a lot of fun! Although I have Kansas City most likely to win the AFC no. 1 seed, they are the no. 2 seed in the most likely wc rounds.”

Here’s the tweet:

If this holds for the Vikings, Minnesota and Detroit would meet thrice in 22 days — Week 16, Week 18, and the NFC’s Wildcard Round.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, first-round picks receiver Jameson Williams, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson pose for a picture with GM Brad Holmes during the press conference Friday, April 29, 2022, at the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park. MAIN Lionspicks. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Last year, the Vikings and Giants met twice in about three weeks, but three times versus the same opponent would take the cake. Detroit is 6-2 through Week 9, owners of a 94.9% playoff probability per the aforementioned FPI metric. Barring a complete and utter collapse, the Lions are headed to the postseason.

Interestingly, because the Vikings have won four straight, Detroit is just 1.5 games ahead of Minnesota in the NFC North. Should the Vikings stay within two games of the NFC North foe by Christmas Eve, Minnesota could theoretically defeat Detroit twice — Weeks 16 and 18 — and host a playoff game in Minneapolis.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings playoff hopes largely lie on the shoulders of one or two men: Josh Dobbs or Jaren Hall. Kirk Cousins was lost for the season 10 days ago, rupturing his Achilles versus the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Fast forward one week, and the newcomer, Dobbs, played marvelously at the Atlanta Falcons, defeating the Dirty Birds 31-28 on their turf.

Hall started the game but was quickly knocked out because of a concussion. Between Dobbs and Hall — or possibly Nick Mullens — the quarterback position must do enough and make necessary plays to continue the winning ways. It helps that Brian Flores’ defense has performed at a Top 10 clip in the last six weeks.

Aspect of Vikings
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

If the Vikings reached the postseason as a wildcard qualifier but don’t play the Lions, the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, or Dallas Cowboys would be likely alternative opponents.

Minnesota hasn’t reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 2008-2009.

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.