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Minnesota Vikings’ playoff scenarios entering the home stretch

MINNEAPOLIS -- With three games to play and a handful of NFL teams beginning to sew up playoff berths, postseason scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings are coming into focus.FiveThirtyEight.com's NFL forecast gives the team a 93 percent chance of m...

MINNEAPOLIS - With three games to play and a handful of NFL teams beginning to sew up playoff berths, postseason scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings are coming into focus.
FiveThirtyEight.com’s NFL forecast gives the team a 93 percent chance of making the playoffs. There are still enough moving parts for the Vikings (8-5) to wind up anywhere from hosting a game as the NFC North champion to sitting at home. The most likely outcome is somewhere in the middle.
NFC North champion
The Packers’ victory over Dallas on Sunday means the path to the NFC North title will run through Green Bay no matter what. Even if the Packers (9-4) lose their next two games - at Oakland on Dec. 20 and at Arizona on Dec. 27 - and the Vikings win their next two - at home against the Bears on Sunday and the Giants on Dec. 27 - the division still will go to whoever wins in Week 17.
The Vikings can keep that scenario in play by beating the Bears and Giants at home in the coming weeks. Already a game behind the Packers, they don’t have any margin for error to stay in the running for the division without more Green Bay losses.
A division-winning Vikings team likely would get the NFC’s No. 3 seed, although there are far-fetched scenarios in which Minnesota wins the NFC North at 9-7 but is surpassed in tiebreakers by the NFC East champion and gets the No. 4 seed.
In either of those slots, Minnesota would be a near-lock to host either Green Bay (again) or Seattle in the first round.
In as a wild card
At 10-6, the Vikings would be assured a playoff berth. If that record isn’t good enough to win the division, their seeding would depend on the other wild-card team.
In the most likely scenario, Seattle gets the No. 5 seed, sending No. 6 Minnesota to Green Bay. There are also paths for the Vikings to get the higher seed - and a much more favorable draw against the winner of the NFC East.
At 9-7, they’re still a decent bet to get in.
Three NFC East teams - Washington (6-7), Philadelphia (6-7) and the New York Giants (6-7) , have the chance to finish 9-7 - but only one of them can actually do so because there are two head-to-head matchups remaining in the group.
A team that emerges 9-7 from that mix would win the division, and the other two would be out without significant help. The Vikings also could knock the Giants out in Week 16.
Two NFC South teams, Tampa Bay (6-7) and Atlanta (6-7), also could finish 9-7. The Vikings own the tiebreaker over the Falcons thanks to a head-to-head win but would get passed by the Buccaneers based on conference record (Minnesota would be 6-6 against the NFC to Tampa Bay’s 8-4).
To get there, however, the Buccaneers would have to end the season with a win at Carolina, which is currently 13-0. Tampa Bay’s fortunes in that game - and by extension, Minnesota’s - could hinge on whether the Panthers are resting their starters or chasing history in the finale.
At 8-8, the Vikings still could sneak in through a number of unsightly scenarios, too convoluted at this point to untangle.

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