The Vikings’ New and Simple Playoff Math

nick mullens
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Knotted at 7-7 after starting the season 1-4, the Minnesota Vikings embark on three pivotal games that will determine their 2023 postseason fate — in or out.

After Week 15, a loss at the Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota has a 44.3% chance of reaching the playoffs, per ESPN, odds that plunged thanks to wins by the Seattle Seahawks and Bengals.

The Vikings’ New and Simple Playoff Math

And while plenty of variables involving the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks will factor into the postseason equation, the Vikings have a pretty simple mission statement: Win two of the following three games.

New and Simple
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It’s essentially a shoo-in to reach the playoffs if the Vikings win two of three. Truth be told, the order or arrangement doesn’t really matter. Minnesota must get to 9-8 and, if so, will probably secure a Wildcard berth. Anything less than 2-1 — also known as 1-2 — will have the players, coaches, and fans watching scoreboards in Week 18.

In short, getting into the dance is up to Minnesota. The club can thank its five-game winning streak in October and November for even having a shot at the postseason, as that spree rattled off five consecutive wins over NFC opponents. The Vikings have a 6-3 conference record, placing them in the driver’s seat for current playoff tiebreakers.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connell’s team still has a Hail Mary chance of winning the NFC North, if that can be believed. Minnesota plays Detroit twice, currently three games back of the Lions. The two teams meet in Week 16 and 18, but in between, the Lions play at the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, and Dallas is virtually unbeatable at home.

A three-game losing streak — probably unlikely, generally speaking — by the Lions, plus three straight dubs by the Vikings, would fetch a back-to-back purple division crown. That hasn’t happened for the Vikings since 2008-2009.

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Should Minnesota only win one contest of the remaining three, its playoff math would dip around 30%, needing franchises like the Packers, Rams, and Seahawks, in particular, to finish the season terribly. And, let’s face it — limping into the playoff at 8-9 would feel like a joke. Or at least a half-buttocks ordeal.

The Vikings hope to effectuate this final playoff push with Nick Mullens under center. Kirk Cousins was injured in Week 8 at Lambeau Field, tearing his Achilles and hitting the shelf for the rest of 2023. Minnesota auditioned Joshua Dobbs for the QB1 gig, who was marvelous until he wasn’t. Mullens offers a gunslinging bravado, complete with the interceptions for flair, so the purple team should have a puncher’s chance at a Wildcard game.

Jefferson Has Starting
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) changes the play at the line of scrimmage prior to a snap in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

If the Vikings reach the playoffs, they’re nearly guaranteed to play a road game at the Lions, Eagles, or Cowboys.

The request is straightforward — win two of the next three games. Doing so will drive the playoff math near 98%.

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