Vikings 3% Playoff Odds? Better Than You Think!

Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a pass against the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL standings are crowded after 17 weeks; with our Minnesota Vikings are sitting on a 7-9 record and one game to go, they have zero chance of finishing with a better-than-.500 record.

That’s the bad news. The good news? Their playoff odds stand at a 3% chance of qualifying. Now some of you cynics, pessimists and fun-haters out there may be saying “A 3% chance? You call that good news?” For further context, we need to consider: what other much-hoped-for (or not so much-hoped for) events are less likely to happen than the Superfecta of events that need to occur Sunday for the Vikings to gain entry to the NFL Playoffs? And what else is more likely?

The needed Vikings Superfecta, by the way, is:

1) The Vikings, 3.5-point underdogs, gain a win against the 11-5 NFC North Champion Detroit Lions

2) the Chicago Bears upset the host Green Bay Packers, who are 3-point favorites

3) the 4-12 Arizona Cardinals upsetting the playoff-hopeful Seattle Seahawks, who are 3-point favorites, on the road, and

4) either 2-14 Carolina or 7-9 Atlanta winning their tilts against playoff-hopeful New Orleans and Tampa Bay, respectively. Both are underdogs.

Playoff Odds
Dec 10, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushes for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

So, all four needed results require an underdog to defeat their favored opponent. How to put the odds of this in context? One should begin by understanding the odds of some other events occurring. Don’t worry, I did the work so you don’t have to. Scanning the endless bevy of facts that lie strewn across the Internet, I can tell you much about what is, and isn’t, more likely to occur than the Vikings navigating that four-step obstacle course of upsets that we need to see on Sunday across the NFL.  Such as…

What’s Less Likely Than The Vikings’ 3% Playoff Odds?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell celebrates after Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandlers (32) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Lottery: Start with the Mother of All Unlikely Occurrences, the Powerball. If the Vikings’ 3% chance, roughly 1 in 33, seems unlikely, just compare it to the 1 in 292,201,338 odds that your next Powerball purchase will bring home the jackpot. Maybe your ambitions are more realistic. Just hoping to score a victory with a modest little scratch-off instant-win card? The Minnesota State Lottery Commission will tell you that their Minnesota Vikings scratch-off game offers a grand prize of $100,000 and odds of just over 800,000-to-1 that your next ticket will scratch that itch. Even a $15 prize on that same scratch-off card is less likely than the Vikings sneaking into the playoffs, with a 1-in-44 likelihood.

A Hole-in-One: if you’re an average golfer, each time you tee off on a par 3 your odds are roughly 12,500-to-1 that you’ll put that ball right in the cup. And, admit it: every time you do, you’re thinking maybe, just maybe, this is the one. So why not apply that same optimism to the Vikings’ chances? After all, they’re 363 times more likely to convert their Superfecta than you are to get that ace.

Dating a Supermodel: no less of an authoritative source than Yahoo! Finance tells us what you already know: the Vikings are, indeed, more likely to make the playoffs than you are to date a Supermodel. Interestingly, those odds (1 in 880,000) are nearly identical to your odds of winning that $100,000 scratch-off. Personally, I think that’s way better odds than I would have guessed, so feel free to keep dreaming. No word from Yahoo! on exactly how they computed this figure, nor did they provide a definition of “Supermodel”. This, to me, is a crucial oversight: I want to know where, exactly, the line is between “Supermodel” and just run-of-the-mill “Model”.

Living to 100: If you’re a man between the ages of 30 and 70, it’s a sobering fact that the Vikings are more likely to make the playoffs this year than you are of living to 100, well below 3%.  Ladies, your odds are more than twice as strong as the men for living to that ripe old age, somewhere between a 6% and 8% chance depending on your current age. This means you may have a realistic chance of seeing the Vikings win a Super Bowl someday, though the men probably not.

Flopping a Full House: if you sit down to a friendly game of Texas Hold’em, what do you think the odds are that you’ll have a full house before you even see the Turn or the River? Surprisingly, 37.5:1 is the answer, according to Wikipedia, which seems pretty OK to me. Play fifteen hands an hour for three hours and you’ll probably see one. But the odds of doing it on the first hand? Less likely than seeing the Vikings play beyond Week 18 this year. Those are long, but reasonable, odds that prevents the smart gambler from going all in every time he sees an early full house, or an early Vikings 6-4 record.

Bowling a Perfect Game: Ever knocked out a couple of quick strikes at the neighborhood Lanes and thought to yourself, “you know, it doesn’t seem that hard to bowl a perfect game…maybe I’ll get one tonight”? Well, kudos to you for the positive thinking, but you’re likely destined to leave a few pins standing no matter how well you roll. The good people at the American Bowling Congress (find ‘em at!) estimate that the odds of a casual bowler bowling a 300 game are 11,500 to 1.

What’s More Likely Than The Vikings’ 3% Playoff Odds?

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates wide receiver K.J. Osborn’s (17) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Acceptance at Harvard: If your kid applied to Harvard, he or she is looking at a 3.2% acceptance rate. So, no matter how picky the admissions folks at Harvard may appear, take solace that Junior is slightly more likely to get in than the Vikings are of slipping into that last playoff spot. But just barely.

Alien Existence: Speaking of brainiacs, Professor David Kipping at Columbia University has deployed something called “Bayesian Analysis” to estimate the likelihood that intelligent alien life is out there. Popular Mechanics explains further here, but the gist is that his work suggests a 45% likelihood that the Universe contains one or more planets, beyond our earth, supporting intelligent life. No word on what the odds are that those aliens have somehow identified our football team as a threat to their society and therefore are subtly manipulating, always, the Vikings towards near-miss failure in order to preserve their society. Seems like that would explain a lot.

Hard Drive Failure: If you own a new computer, you should know that there’s a 5% chance your drive will crash in the first 18 months of use. If it makes it that far, you’ll have 18 more glorious months where there’s only a 1.4% chance of failure. Then it bounces back up to a consistent 12% chance of failure the rest of its life. Sounds kind of like the Vikings’ 2023 season.

Identify Theft: Here’s another downer, folks. The Department of Justice estimated that, in 2021 alone, 9% of U.S. adults fell victim to identity theft. Maybe this explains the letdown of the Vikings defense last week against the Packers? At any rate, you’re 3 times more likely to have a stranger assume your identity this year than the Vikings are likely to make the playoffs. Maybe change your passwords? Or your football team?

Viking Winning the Super Bowl in Your Lifetime: With 32 NFL teams and only 1 Super Bowl Champion each year, there’s a 31 in 32 chance your team will not win in any given year. But every year? Well, some guy on Reddit did the math, and the likelihood of not winning all 57 Super Bowls thus far is just 11.6%. We all know how the Vikings have defied the odds there. But, that also means that the odds of them continuing to not win the Super Bowl throughout your lifetime is also very slim….but not as slim as their chances this particular season.

Sure, there’s only a 3% chance we’ll even make the playoffs this year, but there’s an 78.2% chance that we’ll win a Super Bowl once in the next 50 Seasons! Those odds are much greater! In fact, the math says there’s a 6% chance we’ll win in one of the next two seasons (excluding the current one) so if you’re a betting man, and you were thinking about betting on the Vikings hitting their Superfecta, save your money. Bet on the Vikings winning it all in 2025 or 2026—it’s a much safer bet!