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Lunchbreak: Analyzing Vikings Playoff Scenarios, Including a Possible No. 1 Seed

We're past mid-December, which means it's a time for cold weather, holiday cheer and crunching the scenarios to figure out where your favorite football team could land in the playoffs.

The Vikings have not clinched a postseason berth, but that could come as soon as Saturday night if the 49ers beat the Rams. Minnesota can also get in by defeating Green Bay on Monday night.

Yet as Week 16 approaches, there are still plenty of scenarios that could play out for the Vikings, including a slim but possible chance that Minnesota ends up as the No. 1 seed.

Cynthia Frelund, an analytics expert for NFL Network and NFL.com, recently looked at the data of how the Vikings chances for playoff success would be impacted by different seeds.

Frelund noted that the Vikings currently have a 0.8 percent chance to get the top seed in the NFC. But if Minnesota does get the No. 1 spot, its chances of reaching Super Bowl LIV skyrocket to 19.9 percent. The Vikings would have a 9.1 percent chance to reach the big game if they are a Wild Card team.

Frelund noted that while Minnesota's chances to get a first-round bye are slim, she believes the Vikings won't be an easy out if they do get into the playoff field.

Frelund wrote:

Plenty is working in the Vikings favor in 2019. Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the NFL with a 131.0 passer rating on deep passes (and eight touchdowns). He looks even better when you examine passes in the intermediate range or deeper (131.6 passer rating, with 18 touchdowns and three picks on passes of 10-plus air yards). Next Gen Stats also adds that Cousins has been great under pressure, measuring a 93.3 passer rating (third best in the NFL), with 3 TDs and 0 interceptions. This is a nearly 20-point improvement from last season, when he earned a 75.2 passer rating with a 5:6 TD-to-INT ratio when under pressure.

O-line play is extremely predictive, and this season, the Vikings have decreased the amount of pressure Cousins has been under by five percentage points (from 33.4 in 2018 to 28.4 this season). Outside-the-tackles rushing has been an important differentiator for playoff teams, and the Vikings defense is the best at stopping such runs, only allowing 3.8 yards per rush. Further, Next Gen Stats counts not one but two Vikings defenders among the top five in pressures: Everson Griffen ranks fourth with 54 and Danielle Hunter is fifth with 53. Per NGS, Minnesota is the only team with two defenders in the top 12 in terms of number of pressures generated.

The Vikings should have some clarity on their playoff standing after Week 16. The first order of business is getting into the dance.

There is also a chance the 10-4 Vikings could clinch a playoff spot but be locked into the No. 6 seed after Monday night.

If the four teams with 11 wins (Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans and Green Bay) all win, that would not only get Minnesota into the playoffs, but also push each of those teams to 12 wins.

With the winner of the NFC East already locked into the No. 4 seed, the Vikings would be the No. 6 seed because they would still be at 10 wins and unable to catch the four other playoff-bound teams who are two games ahead in the win column with one game left in the regular season.

Cousins listed as top-5 QB by CBS Sports

The conclusion of the 2019 regular season is on the horizon, as players across the league have had 14 games to showcase their bodies of work on the field.

Kirk Cousins wasn't selected to the initial Pro Bowl roster, but the Vikings quarterback has plenty of support across the league due to his strong play this season.

Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports unveiled his weekly quarterback rankings and moved Cousins up a spot to No. 5 for his stellar season this far in Purple.

Wagner-McGough wrote:

Cousins continues to play at a top-five level. Let's give him his due. He has the Vikings at 10-4, marking his first 10-win season as a starter. And he's still a statistical monster, completing over 70 percent of his passes, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, and throwing 20 more touchdowns (25) than interceptions (5). He's also third in completion percentage above expectation.

Lamar Jackson topped the list, followed by Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

Cousins has completed 291 of 413 passes (70.5 percent) for 3,481 yards with 25 touchdowns and five interceptions. His passer rating of 111.1 ranks third in the NFL.

Aaron Rodgers, the opposing quarterback Monday night, ranks 11th on Wagner-McGough's list.

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