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Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

Before Lions game, Vikings have a 83.8 percent chance of winning NFC North

A win in Detroit on Thursday would move their prospects of a NFC North title to the edge of certainty, but as it stands now, the Vikings’ prospects of starting the playoffs at U.S .Bank Stadium — or even doing so after a week off — are fairly strong.

According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings enter Thursday’s game with an 83.8 percent chance of winning their division, and a 95.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. The 8-2 Vikings, who are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC, have a 44.8 percent chance of a first-round bye.

Using a weighted version of its Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average metric, the site gives the Vikings an average of 11.8 wins over 50,000 simulations, It actually gives the New Orleans Saints — who are also 8-2 — an average of 12.2 wins, and thus a slightly better chance of securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC (18.2 percent to 16.3). But the Vikings, of course, already have secured a tiebreaker advantage over the Saints by virtue of their Week 1 win at U.S. Bank Stadium, and would be seeded ahead of New Orleans if both teams wind up with the same record.

Per Football Outsiders, the Vikings have a 28.5 percent chance at the No. 2 seed and a 27.8 percent chance of starting the playoffs at home as the No. 3 seed. They’d also host a wild-card round game with the No. 4 seed, and they have a 10.8 percent chance of landing there. Their odds of a wild-card berth as the No. 5 or No. 6 seed are 5.6 and 6.5 percent, respectively.

Things can change quickly, of course — the Vikings had a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs, and a 57 percent chance at home-field advantage after Week 5 last year, and we all know how that turned out. A Vikings loss tomorrow at Ford Field would keep the NFC North title as a two-team race with the Lions, who’d then have a tiebreaker advantage on the Vikings (along with an easier schedule the rest of the way).

But as things sit right now, the Vikings’ playoff positioning is in strong shape. If they ace a difficult three-game road trip, they’ll come home with the NFC North title all locked up.

Vikings' Keenum playing with big ... fortitude, Zimmer says

Mike Zimmer has had some recently interesting comments describing the play of his current quarterback, Case Keenum, who will start his ninth game for the Vikings on Thursday in Detroit.

“He’s got a horseshoe right now,” Zimmer said after Sunday’s 24-7 win over the Rams.

Then there’s the latest: “The thing I like the most about Case is he’s got big balls,” Zimmer said Tuesday. “He’s not afraid. He’s going to pull the trigger and he is going to play like that. That’s a good thing.”

The, uh, fortitude certainly helped Keenum stand in the pocket against the Rams on Sunday, when he was pressured about 40 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet Los Angeles couldn’t take him down.

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Perhaps the best example of Zimmer’s description was a 12-yard completion to receiver Adam Thielen, for which Keenum stood in the pocket for about 5.5 seconds and dodged two Rams defenders.

“We’re doing a good job of protecting,” Zimmer said. “We’re changing protections. He is doing a good job of moving in the pocket.  He’s getting the ball to the right place.”

Keenum, taken down just five times this season, is the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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