The Minnesota Vikings lost again last night, in a game where they didn’t even run a play in Seattle’s side of the field until the second half. They were shut out until a late score in the final minutes. It marked the third loss for the Vikings in four games since the bye week, with the only win being a key one–the home win over the Packers that gives them the tiebreaker.
But Minnesota is not alone in limping down the stretch. The NFC playoff teams are mostly set, because the top teams have separated from the middle. Seattle’s win last night pushed them to 8-5 and almost certainly in with just one more win. They should join the Rams, Saints, Bears, and Cowboys.
But that sixth spot? It does not seem like anyone wants it. Here is how it looks right now, with Minnesota still in that place with three weeks to go:
The five teams within a game of the final wildcard are a combined 4-16 over their last four games, and two of those wins came in head-to-head wins within this group. They collectively look like contenders for an early draft pick in the last month, rather than contenders to still play in January, yet someone is going to have to make it.
Minnesota should be that team. They have a decisive tiebreaker advantage over the Packers, such that the Packers would have to make up two games in three weeks. They have the most manageable schedule, especially when you consider that Chicago is also likely to be resting starters in Week 17. The other teams trailing them at 6-7 have tough matchups coming up that make a 3-0 finish into a tall task. Washington looks incapable of winning anything, let alone closing strong. Philadelphia has to go to the Rams this week. Carolina plays New Orleans twice in the final three weeks.
So if Minnesota can just finish at 8-7-1, it looks like they will be a wildcard team. But man, they will have won a pillow fight to get there.
Here are my estimates of the odds of getting that sixth spot based on power ratings and remaining schedule:
Minnesota – 65%
Philadelphia – 13%
Green Bay – 9%
Carolina – 7%
Washington – 3%
Tampa Bay – 1%
NY Giants – 1%
Detroit – 1%