It’s sort of simple but it sort of isn’t.
Starting with the obvious. If Minnesota wins their 4 remaining games they finish 10-6 and make the playoffs.
Right now, if the Vikings win 3 of their last 4 games and finish 9-7 they have a 92% chance of making the playoffs.
The problem they have is their remaining schedule.
The fact that Minnesota has won 5 of their last 6 to get back into playoff contention is, unfortunately, more about their opponents in those games than it is about the Vikings playing good football.
They play the Bucs this week, followed by the Bears, Saints, and Lions.
Finishing 9-7 won’t be easy. Even if they manage to pull one out as an underdog against the Bucs or the Saints the Vikings have the type of team who could easily turn around and drop one to the Bears or Lions the following week.
If the Vikings finish 8-8, which is more plausible of an option, they hold a 42% chance of making the playoffs.
This is where it gets a little more tricky.
Assuming the Cardinals and Vikings both finish in a tie for that 7th and last playoff spot at 8-8, Minnesota would own the tiebreaker over them IF that journey included a Vikings win over the Lions in week 17. (Based on the third tiebreaker of record against common opponents.)
Finishing with a 7-9 record gives them a 2% chance of making the postseason.
After doing a ton of research (basically me sitting around for hours entering a ton of different scenarios and outcomes into the NYtimes playoff simulator) I’ve basically figured out 3 big things.
Minnesota needs to win at least 2 of their last 4 games to have any chance.
Arizona needs to lose as many games as possible.
The NFC needs to put San Francisco out of its misery.
Arizona Cardinals remaining schedule: at NY Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Rams.
San Francisco 49ers remaining schedule: Washington, at Cowboys, at Cardinals, Seahawks.
That week 16 game between the Cardinals and 49ers will be a big game to check out if you’re a Vikings fan.