Vikings Playoff Scenario, if Applicable, Takes Shape

The Massive Vikings Debate Has Arrived
Lions fans cheer during the Lions' 34-23 win over the Vikings. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Want a simple way to crack the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff hopes?

If the club finishes 3-2 or better in the next five games, it will almost certainly be invited to the playoff tournament in January. A 2-3 record would essentially disqualify Kevin O’Connell’s team.

Vikings Playoff Scenario, if Applicable, Takes Shape

Those are the stakes and were made clearer on Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers won Week 13 matchups. It was a Sunday from hell for the Vikings, and they didn’t even set foot on a football field.

Playoff Scenario
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Meanwhile, if Minnesota does reach the postseason, its first-round scenario has taken shape. In all likelihood, should the Vikings play postseason football, they’ll take on a team they’ve already played in 2023.

These are the teams at the top of the NFC through 13 weeks:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Atlanta Falcons
Vikings Fans Offer
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota probably won’t catch up with the Lions unless the Vikings embark on another five-game winning streak while the Lions oddly collapse. The Vikings’ hopes of winning the NFC North likely died with the Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears.

But they indeed have playoff aspirations, targeting a Wildcard spot once O’Connell names a QB1 henceforth.

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports.

Most playoff simulators tend to situate Minnesota’s Wildcard meeting with the Lions. And, yes, that would mean the Vikings play the Lions thrice in 20 days — Week 16, Week 18, and possibly Wildcard Weekend. Think of it this way: If you believe the Vikings will finish 3-2 in the next five games and the Eagles and 49ers don’t fire up abrupt losing streaks, Minnesota will play a road playoff game at Detroit the weekend of January 16th.

Aspect of Vikings
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Otherwise, the opponent will be the Eagles or 49ers, whichever team gains the No. 2 seed. The top-spot franchise earns a first-round bye, and the second-seeded team will host the No. 7 seed. If the Packers or Rams get hot and pass the Vikings in the NFC standings, Minnesota could finish seventh and hit the road to San Francisco or Philadelphia.

No matter what, the road through the NFC postseason won’t be easy. Yet, unlike last year, the Vikings employ a formidable defense — one that ranks eighth in the NFL per defensive EPA/Play. In theory, it doesn’t have to be like last year when the New York Giants marched and marched up and down the field.

The Vikings continue their playoff push this weekend at the Las Vegas Raiders and are 2.5-point favorites to prevail.

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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