(WCCO)- Fourteen weeks into the regular season, and Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings are clinging to the final NFC playoff spot. The Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears are right behind them. With a 9-4 record and three games left before the end of the regular season, the Vikings have a 71% chance of making the postseason, according to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff projection model. ESPN’s Football Power Index is even more bullish, placing their chances at about 81%.

While the odds seem to be in the team’s favor, a postseason berth is far from secure. Realistically, the path to the postseason lies in the team’s own hands. If they win each of their last three matchups against the Chargers, Packers and Bears, they are a lock, with seeding as the only question. If they lose one of those three games, they would also need the Rams to drop one of their final three in order to secure their spot.

Losing two of three games means the team would need a lot of help. The Rams would have to drop two games (@DAL, @SF, vs ARI) and the Bears would need to lose at least once (@GB, vs. KC, @MIN). So, basically, the Vikings need to win their final three games to assure themselves of that playoff spot. The good news? FiveThirtyEight’s game projection model gives them a 57, 63, and 68 percent win probability in their final three games.

Now, if the team aspires to more than just a playoff berth — and they surely do, as does any NFL team — things get more complicated. The Daily Norseman broke down how the Vikings could earn a first-round bye:

  • Win all three of their games
  • Packers would need to lose two of three, including the Week 16 matchup in Minnesota.
  • The Saints have to lose either another conference game or two of their final three; or the Seahawks have to lose two more games; or the 49ers must lose to the Falcons and Seahawks.

Head spinning yet? Welcome to NFL playoff scenario season. The first step in the process begins on Sunday, when the Vikings face the Los Angeles Chargers, with kickoff set for 3:25 p.m. Central Time.

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