Minnesota Vikings playoff scenarios

The Minnesota Vikings are heading to the playoffs. But where will the purple land in the postseason bracket?

Worst case scenario (no Keenum pun intended), the Vikings are a No. 4 seed and host a game in the divisional round at U.S. Bank Stadium. Best case scenario, Minnesota earns the top seed in the conference and stays in Minneapolis all the way through the Super Bowl for a championship parade down Chicago Avenue.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s unpack it a bit.

With two weeks to go in the regular season, there are four teams that could have an impact on the Vikings’ playoff seeding: Eagles, Panthers, Saints and Rams. None of the four teams has too difficult of a schedule the rest of the way, although the Panthers-Falcons matchup in Week 17 is intriguing.

PHI (12-2) OAK (6-8) DAL (8-6)
MIN (11-3) @GB (7-7) CHI (4-10)
CAR (10-4) TB (4-10) @ATL (9-5)
NO (10-4) ATL (9-5) @TB (4-10)
L.A. (10-4) @TEN (8-6) SF (4-10)

For the top seed in the NFC, it’s simple. The Vikings need to win both of their remaining games and Philadelphia must lose out. This is the only way Minnesota can ensure home field throughout the playoffs. If Philly and Minnesota end up with the same record, the Eagles would claim the top seed either due to better conference record (losing to Oakland, beating Dallas) or better record in common games (beating Oakland, losing to Dallas), the latter by a slim 5-0 to 4-1 margin (yeah, that Panthers loss hurt). It’s worth mentioning Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliot is back from his suspension, which makes the Eagles’ final game of the year against Dallas more challenging.

The No. 4 seed is pretty clear cut as well. If Minnesota loses out and the Panthers/Saints and Rams win both of their final two contests (the Vikings would then be 11-5 and the NFC South and NFC West winners both would be 12-4).

The most likely scenario is the Vikings clinch the NFC’s second seed (New York Times’ calculator estimates an 82 percent likelihood), still earning a first-round bye. Minnesota can clinch this seed by winning its final two games.

If the Vikings do lose, however, it gets a little more complicated, but still in Minnesota’s favor.

With regular-season wins over New Orleans and Los Angeles, the Vikings have the tiebreaker over the Saints and Rams in case Minnesota is in a two-way tie with either of those teams.

According to tiebreaker expert Joe Ferreira, who supplies tiebreaking information to the NFL, Minnesota would still have the second seed if it found itself in a three-way tie with the Saints or Rams as the Vikings swept the season series against those teams (New Orleans went 1-1 and Los Angeles 0-2).

In fact, a three-way tie with Carolina and the Rams also is good news for Minnesota. At 12-4 records, the Vikings would be the 2 seed based on conference records (and Los Angeles would be the 3 over Carolina based on common games record). Carolina can only win the NFC South with an 11-5 record if it beats Atlanta and New Orleans loses both of its final two games. If the Rams beat San Francisco to get to 8-4 in the conference, the Panthers would drop out on conference record and Minnesota would be No. 2 based on beating Los Angeles. If the Rams lose to the 49ers, Minnesota would get the No. 2 seed based on conference record.

Yes, Minnesota could still end up not getting a first-round bye even with a win over Green Bay on Saturday. The Vikings would be the third seed if they end up in a two-way record tie with Carolina, the Panthers owning the head-to-head victory.

So, basically, if you’re a Vikings fan, beyond hoping for Minnesota to win, root against Carolina. And then enjoy the first week of the playoffs by just relaxing.