by Brian Umbaugh, @NFLRosters
It’s that time of year; 13 weeks are in the books, and the hard core fans are starting to mull over the playoff possibilities. For the Minnesota Vikings, a slipup in Week 13 cost them their lead in the NFC North. Regardless, an 8-4 record has this team in a good position to make the playoffs. They are currently holding the #5 seed in the NFC, courtesy of a Week 11 loss to Green Bay. With 4 games to go, the challenge is overtaking the Packers for the division lead, with the best case scenario being a 1st round bye, if Arizona falters. As the fifth team in our series of playoff simulators, using the NY Times Playoff Simulation model, let’s check out the last 4 games individually and how these games affect the Vikings’ playoff chances.
As the situation currently stands (after Week 13), the Vikings have a 23% chance of winning the division, and a 55% chance of hitting the road for a playoff game. They have a 2 game lead over the 7th place team, but their schedule is tough. While it may be more likely they will not finish in 1st place, let’s see how things might shake out using the NY Times Playoff Simulation Engine.
Rest of Season Odds
Remaining schedule: at Arizona, Chicago, NY Giants, at Green Bay
As the Vikings are currently tied for 1st place, winning all four games and finishing 12-4 would clinch the division and give them a 72% shot at a 1st round bye.
If Minnesota was to lose one game, the best one would be either Chicago or New York, because beating Arizona and Green Bay would open some opportunities to grab the #2 seed. Losing to Arizona would lock them into the #3 seed. The Vikings could still win the division with a loss to Green Bay, but with the loss of the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Packers would most likely win the division and force the 11-5 Vikings to travel for a wild card game. It’s quite obvious beating the Packers in Week 17 is important, but the playoffs are almost assured without that win.
With only 2 wins, the 10-6 Vikings have basically two scenarios: if one of those wins is Green Bay, then Minnesota has a 80-95% chance of a division win and a #3 seed, with the rest of the simulations resulting in a road playoff game. If one of those wins isn’t Green Bay, the Vikings are almost assured a road playoff game, unless the Packers only beat the Vikings.
If Minnesota only wins one of their remaining games, they have a 23-35% chance of missing the playoffs, with their only opportunity for the Super Bowl going through every other city. However, if Green Bay is their one win, they still have a 37% chance of winning the division, and only a 14% chance of missing the playoffs.
As a worst case scenario, the Vikings still have a 14% chance of backing into a playoff spot without any more wins. It might not be a good idea to depend on that happening.
The Vikings are currently tied for first, but if the season ended today they would hit the road for a wild card game against the NFC East winner. Minnesota currently ranks #11 in the USA Today Sagarin Ratings, and two remaining opponents are rated higher, including Green Bay. Sagarin would predict they lose two of their last four, and I agree.. I think they pull out two wins, but not the Packers, which they would sorely need to win the division. Prediction: 10-6, 2nd place NFC North, #6 seed, on the road at Green Bay.