(WCCO)- The 26-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Sunday combined with the Arizona Cardinals win over the New York Giants put the Vikings back outside the playoff picture looking in. Now, with three games left, they’re being given just about a 20 percent chance of making the postseason by the FiveThirtyEight and ESPN FPI projection models.
The good news, to paraphrase Dumb and Dumber, is you’re saying there’s a chance for Minnesota to make the postseason. Yes, there is. Though they will need help to do it.
First, the remaining schedule for the team. The Vikings face the Bears at home this weekend, followed by a trip to New Orleans and visit to Detroit to cap things off.
The Cardinals, the Vikings most direct competition for the postseason, have games against the Eagles, 49ers and Rams remaining.
Now, projections for those games. Minnesota is favored by win probability against both Chicago (58%) and Detroit (66%) while being massive underdogs (18%) against the Saints in Week 16. Arizona is favored against Philly (66%) and San Fran (59%) and are underdogs against the Rams (31%). To state the obvious, if the results were to play out based on the projections, Arizona would get in at 9-7 while the Vikings would be headed golfing at 8-8.
So, what needs to happen in order for the Vikings to make the playoffs? First, Sunday’s game against Chicago is basically a must-win. The Bears, thanks to their win over the Houston Texans last week, have the same record as the Vikings. In order to beat out Chicago if they lose this week, the Vikings would have to beat both the Saints and Lions while hoping the Bears lose against either the Packers or Jaguars. Add in the fact that FiveThirtyEight gives the Vikings just a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a loss this weekend and yeah, it’s essentially a must-win.
If they beat the Bears, the Vikings chances improve to 33 percent and they have two options. One is to beat both New Orleans and Detroit and have the Cardinals lose one of their final three games. Both teams finish 9-7 in that scenario and Minnesota gets the spot. The second option is the more likely one, which is to lose to the Saints, beat Detroit and then have Arizona lose two of their final three to finish 8-8. With both teams at 8-8, again, the Vikings would take the spot.
What are the hopeful signs if you’re a Vikings fan? Well, the team is favored in its two division games that it needs to win for a playoff spot. And despite Arizona being favored against Philly and San Fran, we’ve seen weirder upsets in the last few weeks. One only has to look at the Eagles beating the then top-seeded Saints last week. Philly pulling the upset again this weekend would put the two teams on even ground once against at 7-7 with a pair of games left.
First, the Vikings need to take care of business against the Bears with kickoff at 12:00 p.m. CST. Then, fans will have a chance to watch the Eagles take on the Cardinals at 3:05 p.m. CST.