Vikings playoff picture: Minnesota’s updated NFC wild-card chances to make 2023 NFL playoffs

When the Vikings started the 2023 NFL season with a record of 1-4, many believed they were dead in the water. They fought back and clawed their way into the wild-card race.

Then the team suffered another blow when quarterback Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles and was declared out for the season. Again the Vikings were written off; once more, they managed to stay alive as their defense sprang to life.

Now, the 2023 season is coming to a close, and the Vikings are in control of their postseason chances. They have a better than 50 percent chance of making it to the playoffs and they remain the top threat to the Lions in a division that many believed Detroit had locked up.

So, overall, it hasn’t been a bad year for Kevin O’Connell and Co. The team has been resilient and certainly appears to be on the right track toward becoming a perennial contender, even as the team makes noticeable changes to its roster.

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But can the Vikings make it into the postseason? Their path there won’t be easy, as they have one of the most difficult schedules remaining to play over the last four weeks of the season. Here’s what to know about the Vikings’ playoff chances as take on the Bengals in Week 15.

Vikings playoff picture

The Vikings enter Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season as the NFC’s No. 6 seed with a record of 7-6.

Minnesota is the only team in the conference with a record of exactly 7-6 entering Week 15. There are six teams with a record of 6-7, however, so the Vikings must beat the Bengals to avoid getting caught up in the logjam of playoff hopefuls hovering around .500.

Because of their one-game advantage on those six teams, the Vikings currently have the inside track to earning a postseason berth. It also helps that they have a respectable 2-1 division record — with two games against the Lions and one against the Packers outstanding — and a conference record of 6-3. Those solid marks could give Minnesota the upper hand in tiebreakers against the teams that emerge from the pack of 6-7 teams to challenge it.

That said, the Vikings won’t have to worry about those tiebreakers if they can win out. Thus, they are in control of their destiny to earn a wild-card berth.

The Vikings could end up with a chance to win the NFC North as well. The Lions presently own a two-game advantage over Minnesota in that division, but the Vikings have two games remaining against Detroit. Win both, and the Vikings will have a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Lions. So, they can’t be counted out of the divisional race quite yet.

Even so, Minnesota’s more likely path to the postseason is to get a wild-card berth. Their first step in securing that will be to try to knock off the Bengals on the road in Week 15. The Bengals are favored in that contest, but if the Vikings can pull off the upset, they will be locked into the No. 6 seed in the NFC for at least one more week.

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Vikings remaining schedule

The Vikings have the sixth-toughest strength of schedule remaining for the 2023 regular season, according to Tankathon, with a mark of .596. Their opponents have a combined record of 31-21 and they are facing just one team with a losing record. The Vikings have the good fortune of playing that contest against the 6-7 Packers at home.

Below is a look at Minnesota’s schedule over the final four weeks of the season.

Week Team Record
15 at Bengals 7-6
16 vs. Lions 9-4
17 vs. Packers 6-7
18 at Lions 9-4

Minnesota enters Week 15 having won six of its last eight games and with its defense playing as well as it has all season. That said, the team will need its offense to live up to its potential to challenge these playoff-caliber opponents down the stretch. That will require Nick Mullens and Justin Jefferson to both play and play well.

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Vikings’ updated playoff chances

The Vikings have a 62.3 percent chance to make the playoffs entering Week 15, according to Sporting News’ projection model for the NFL season. Their chances of taking home a wild-card berth stand at 49.8 percent while they maintain a respectable 12.5 percent chance of winning the NFC North.

A win over the Bengals would position the Vikings to improve their wild-card odds while putting pressure on the Lions in the NFC North regardless of Detroit’s result against Denver. Meanwhile, a loss would make going on a postseason run a bit more of a coin-flip, though Minnesota shouldn’t see its postseason odds decrease considerably with a loss.

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