The Minnesota Vikings season has been one of the wildest so far in 2023. From a 1-4 start and seemingly on the verge of virtual elimination, they have risen like a Phoenix from the ashes to sit at 6-5 and inside the NFC playoff picture as we head out of Week 12.
With their Monday Night Football game still to play ahead of their bye next week, where do the Vikings sit right now in terms of the wider playoff scenarios? Using PFN’s free NFL Playoff Predictor to assist us, let’s examine the various playoff scenarios for the Vikings going forward.
What Are the Minnesota Vikings Playoff Scenarios Ahead of Monday Night Football?
Heading into the final game of Week 12, the Vikings are 6-5 and actually saw their playoff seeding improve on Thanksgiving when the Seattle Seahawks lost and dropped below them. Minnesota is currently the NFC’s sixth seed but hangs in a fairly perilous position as things stand.
With the Vikings’ bye week looming in Week 13, the teams around them have an opportunity to catch up a little next week. The only other NFC teams on a bye next week are 4-8 or worse and realistically out of the playoff picture as things stand. That leaves 10 other teams with the opportunity to improve their standing while the Vikings are on the sideline.
To mitigate that, Minnesota needs to win tonight against the 3-8 Chicago Bears, who will also be on a bye next week. A win for the Vikings would move them to 7-5 and ensure they remain a game ahead of the chasing pack regardless of next week’s results.
It would also keep the Vikings within touching distance of the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions, ensuring there is another route to clinching a playoff spot in 2023. A win on MNF would keep the Vikings just two games back in the loss column with six weeks to go.
If Minnesota loses to Chicago in Week 12, then things get really interesting. The Vikings would drop back to the seventh seed in the NFC with a 6-6 record and in a very vulnerable spot relying on NFL playoff tiebreakers. That would put them within touching distance of the 5-6 teams — Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints.
The positive for the Vikings is that even if they lose this week, they should still be the NFC seventh seed even if all four of those teams win in Week 13. Minnesota has a head-to-head advantage over the Packers, Saints, and Falcons. They will also have a superior conference record to the Rams, so whatever combination of results occurs, Minnesota is assured of having a playoff spot when Week 13 ends.
Nevertheless, with five weeks still remaining, the Vikings would have next to no room for error. A loss on MNF leaves their season once again hanging in the balance after they fought so hard to win five straight. A win, meanwhile, would give them some breathing room and a real shot at the Lions for the NFC North.
How Can the Vikings Win the NFC North in 2023?
The NFC North remains wide open with six weeks (and one game) left in the season. Detroit has a two-game lead in the loss column ahead of MNF, but the Vikings and Lions still have to face each other twice. Therefore, that advantage could be gone very quickly and put the division in the hands of the tiebreakers.
If that is the case, these Week 12 games where the Lions lost to the Packers and the Vikings face the Bears could have a huge impact.
Entering the week, both teams were 2-0 within the division, but the Lions have slipped to 2-1 after the loss to the Packers. That gives Minnesota an advantage on a crucial tiebreaker, and if they beat the Lions twice, ensures they will have that tiebreaker advantage.
The two games against Detroit gives them a little room for maneuver. If Minnesota didn’t play the Lions or had just one game remaining against them, they would need help elsewhere.
Yet, as things stand, if the Vikings win out, they will take the NFC North and ensure themselves at least one home game in the 2023 NFL postseason.