There will be no shortage of drama in the NFL in Week 17.
As regular-season finales loom across the league, only two of the 12 playoff spots have been locked in for sure. New Orleans is the top seed in the NFC, and Dallas is in the No. 4 spot, regardless of what happens this weekend.
The Vikings are included in the handful of teams trying to either secure a postseason berth, or jockey for positioning with playoff seeding.
Minnesota plays at home against Chicago in Week 17 in a divisional clash that ESPN writer Mike Sando predicted could be one of the best games of the weekend.
The Vikings have eight touchdowns from scrimmage over the past two weeks, tied with Seattle for most in the NFL. Will their successes against Miami and Detroit carry over against the Bears, who rank first in defensive efficiency? Will Chicago limit snaps for some players given that it has less than a 5 percent projected chance of improving its seeding for the playoffs?
One of the insiders picking Minnesota thought the Vikings could be a dangerous playoff team based on how the Vikings' offense has expanded under longtime assistant Kevin Stefanski, who took over coordinating duties two weeks ago. He noted that Minnesota has already become more explosive in the running game.
“The Vikings have to create something other than the two wide receivers [Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen],” this insider said. “Stefanski has coached tight ends and he knows what Kyle Rudolph can do, so it was no surprise to see Rudolph get nine targets and two touchdowns against Detroit. If that offense goes from being two-headed to three-headed plus the backs, Minnesota can be dangerous.”
The Vikings lost 25-20 to the Bears in Week 11 at Soldier Field. But the insiders said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will have his team better prepared this time around.
This insider noted that Minnesota played Chicago close at Soldier Field despite having some issues that might have been resolved in the interim. He thought Mike Zimmer would gain more from facing Matt Nagy a second time than Nagy would gain from facing Zimmer a second time. This insider thought the Vikings could be better prepared for some of the unconventional ways Chicago manufactures offense.
“I take the Vikings at home in a must-win scenario,” the third insider said.
The Vikings will be in the playoffs with a win. Minnesota will be the No. 6 seed if it wins and Seattle also wins against Arizona. If the Vikings win and the Seahawks lose, Minnesota would jump to the fifth seed.
Chicago has already won the NFC North and is currently the No. 3 seed. If the Bears lose to the Vikings, they will remain there.
But if the Bears win and the Rams lose to the 49ers, Chicago would jump to the second seed and get a first-round bye.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.
Vikings could also make playoffs with a tie against Bears
Ever since the Vikings Week 2 tie against Green Bay at Lambeau Field, Minnesota has had an extra digit associated with its record. The 2018 season marks the ninth campaign in franchise history in which the Vikings have had at least one tie associated with their record.
Minnesota went 3-8-3 in 1967, the only season the Vikings have had multiple ties in a season. But if it happens again Sunday, the Vikings would still clinch a playoff berth with a draw.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk recently wrote that while it’s rare for a team to have multiple ties in a season, Minnesota would still make the postseason with an unusual 8-6-2 record.
They would be treated as if they’re 9-7. The NFL treats a tie as half a win and half a loss, so a team with eight wins, six losses and two ties would be treated the same as a team with nine wins and seven losses.
For the Vikings, an 8-6-2 record would clinch a playoff berth. Minnesota would be tied with 9-7 Philadelphia (if Philadelphia beats Washington) and 9-7 Seattle (if Seattle loses to Arizona). The Eagles would be eliminated from that three-team tie based on conference record, and then the Seahawks would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Vikings. So the 9-7 Seahawks would be the No. 5 seed, the 8-6-2 Vikings would be the No. 6 seed, and the 9-7 Eagles would be out of the playoffs. If the Seahawks win, and there are only two teams tied for the last NFC playoff berth, the 8-6-2 Vikings would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with the 9-7 Eagles.
If the Vikings finish at 8-6-2 and the Eagles end up at 9-7, which the league identifies as equal records, Minnesota would be a Wild Card team based on its 23-20 win over Philadelphia in Week 5.