Had the Minnesota Vikings not been crushed by Indianapolis Sunday, the NFC playoff picture would be looking a lot different … a lot different, as in the Vikings would be knocking on the doorstep of the playoffs at 8-6.
Instead, at 7-7, they’re still alive, but it’s a life-support type of existence.
To break down the basics – complicated basics, but the basics nonetheless, the Vikings can’t win the NFC. Under a best-case scenario, the Vikings will finish 9-7. Using that scenario, where Minnesota wins both games and Detroit (9-5) loses both games, that would require the Vikings to beat Green Bay and Green Bay to beat Detroit. The first tie-breaker would be head-to-head record. Detroit would have beaten the Vikings twice, the Vikings would have beaten the Packers twice and Green Bay would have beaten the Lions twice.
At that point you go to the second divisional tie-breaker, which is division record. The best the Vikings could finish in the division is 3-3. Under the scenario in which three teams are tied, Green Bay would be 4-2 in the division by losing to the Vikings and defeating Detroit, who would also be 3-3 in the division with two losses to Green Bay.
If this scenario happens, the Vikings don’t make the playoffs because they would finish third in their division thanks to their Halloween loss at Chicago.
Green Bay would win the division and then tie-breakers would revert to head-to-head between the Vikings and the Lions, where Detroit would have the advantage due to their sweep. With Dallas and New York both already with double-digit wins, no more than one playoff team can come from any other division, so, while may look good at the end of the year to have three teams at 9-7, it would be death for the Vikings because it would guarantee they’re out.
The Vikings need to root for Detroit to win the division, because it’s their only hope of making the postseason. Seeing as the Vikings can’t make the playoffs as division champion, it’s the wild card that is their goal.
The only shred of hope the Vikings have to make the playoffs is to win out and finish 9-7. If they beat Green Bay, they will need one of two things to remain alive – that Detroit beats Dallas and makes the division tie-breaker or Detroit beats Green Bay in Week 17. If the Lions lose to Dallas a week from tonight, it doesn’t matter if the Packers lose to the Vikings. They still control the death card for Minnesota.
It gets worse.
Two teams outside the NFC North still control their own destiny – 8-6 Tampa Bay and 7-5-1 Washington. The Redskins are the literal wild card in this scenario because, if they run the table, they won’t be kept out of the playoffs.
Step 1 for the complicated playoff picture is to have Washington lose to Carolina tonight. If Washington wins at home tonight, they will be in possession of the No. 2 wild card spot and there’s nothing anyone can do to avoid that.
In their final two games after Carolina, the Redskins play the Bears and the Giants. The simplest way to explain this scenario is, regardless of who it is, the Redskins need to lose two of their final three games for the Vikings to remain alive in their ideal version of things.
If Washington wins two of their three games, Minnesota is eliminated.
Then comes Tampa Bay. Despite their loss last night to Dallas, at 8-6 the Bucs are still large and in charge when it comes to playoff tie-breakers. Since the Vikings didn’t play the Bucs, if they were to match up head-to-head at 9-7, the Bucs would win a tie-breaker based upon better conference record.
The best the Vikings can finish in the NFC is 6-6. The only way Tampa Bay finishes 6-6 in the conference is to lose both of its remaining games, which would leave them at 8-8,
We don’t blame you if you don’t.
To summarize, here is what needs to happen for the 2016 Minnesota Vikings to make the playoffs:
- Minnesota must win its remaining two games.
- Detroit needs to beat either Dallas or Green Bay.
- Green Bay has to lose to the Vikings and, if Dallas beats Detroit, must lose both its game.
- Washington needs to lose two of its remaining three games (if the Redskins win tonight that becomes losing both of its final two games).
- Tampa Bay needs to lose both of its remaining games.
It seems only appropriate at this time of year that we quote Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber when he said, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but the chess pieces that needed to be moved for Minnesota to make the playoffs may be above St. Nick’s pay grade.