Sitting Pretty: How Minnesota Can Secure a Playoff Birth

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) react after a touchdown by Jefferson against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota’s 34-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was BIG. How big? Following Week 11, the Vikings playoff probabilities rose by 21%. The purple and gold now have a 59% chance of securing a Wild Card birth and a 10% chance of catching Green Bay in the NFC North. Currently sitting in 6th place in the conference, the Vikings are sitting pretty. Let’s look at how Minnesota can secure a playoff birth. 

Win the Winnable Games

Sure, as a Vikings fan, every game probably feels just as winnable as it does losable. But a Minnesota playoff birth could be as simple as winning the gimme games. The Vikings remaining opponents combine for a .451 winning percentage (25th hardest strength of schedule). Of those seven matchups, one comes against the winless Detroit Lions and two against the Chicago Bears, who look to be reverting to Andy Dalton at QB. 

In an NFC that has 11 of 16 teams sitting with a .500 or below record going into Week 12, it is plausible that 9-8 would be good enough for the Vikings to secure a Wild Card birth. If Minnesota can take care of business in the aforementioned games, a Minnesota playoff appearance could hinge on winning 1 of 4 remaining games against teams with .500 or above records. Kirk Cousins and Co. should expect to be underdogs at home against the L.A. Rams and for their rematch against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. However, a Week 12 game against a rolling San Francisco team and a Week 14 matchup against a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers team are great opportunities for the Vikings to secure a Wild Card spot.

Figure Things Out on Defense

The Vikings defense was instrumental in the team’s win on Sunday. At least, its first-half defense was instrumental. It was truly a tale of two defenses in the Vikings win over the Packers. Minnesota held the high-powered Packers offense to just 10 first-half points, only to surrender 21 second half (14 fourth quarter) points. The defense has shown that it can compete with the league’s top offenses over the last two weeks. With several key players now back from injury and its offense rolling, it is time for the defense to figure out how to compete for all four quarters. 

Limit Stupid Mistakes

On paper, Minnesota has looked great the last three weeks in the turnover column. They have only had one turnover (Kirk Cousin’s fumble Week 10) and have put up gaudy numbers offensively. However, that’s only on paper. For fans watching Sunday’s game against Green Bay, they know the Vikings luckily recovered two fumbles. They also realize that Cousins easily could have had three interceptions. Most notably, an overturned interception by Darnell Savage just before the 2-minute warning that would have spelled disaster for the Vikings playoff hopes.

It is exciting to watch Cousins play loose and sling the ball like so many Vikings fans have begged to see over the years. But even the greatest gun-slingers throughout NFL history have been conscious of game situations. Cousins has put together a great season, and with a great supporting cast around him, it’s crucial to the Vikings playoff hopes that Cousins continues to play within himself and the flow of the game.

Today, the Vikings are a -2.5 underdog to the San Francisco 49ers for their matchup on Sunday. Both teams have seemed to hit their stride at the right time of the season, and the winner will slip into a playoff spot come Monday morning. By limiting mistakes and playing four quarters of Minnesota Vikings defense, there are no reasons why the Vikings shouldn’t take care of business and move one step closer to a Wild Card birth.