As detailed in our dispatch from Detroit, the Vikings’ path to the playoffs is simple and straightforward.
“Win and in. I’m O.K. with that,” head coach Mike Zimmer said Sunday afternoon following the 27-9 win against the Lions.
What if the Vikings lose to the Bears next Sunday afternoon?
There’s still a chance.
At a possible 8-7-1, the Vikings can still earn the NFC’s No. 6 seed with an Eagles loss or tie against the Washington Redskins.
With the Rams and Bears still wrestling over the No. 2 spot and a first-round bye, the NFL moved a handful of games to the afternoon spots to guarantee Chicago and L.A. won’t know whether they’re locked into a playoff seed before kickoff of their regular season finales. So Vikings-Bears, Rams-49ers, Eagles-Redskins and Seahawks-Cardinals are all set to kick off at 3:25 p.m. CT this Sunday afternoon.
Now, let’s assume the Vikings make it to the postseason. Where are they playing? Here are the scenarios.
At Chicago: This seems the most likely should the Vikings make the playoffs. It requires a Vikings win against the Bears in Week 17 and a Seahawks win against the Cardinals. The Vikings could still return to Chicago with a loss on Sunday against the Bears. In that case, the Vikings need an Eagles tie or loss and a Rams win.
At Dallas: If the Vikings win, and somehow the Seahawks lose to the lowly Cardinals, Minnesota (at 9-6-1) would leapfrog Seattle (at 9-7) for the No. 5 seed and travel to the NFC East-champion Dallas Cowboys during wild-card weekend.
At Los Angeles: The Vikings would return to L.A. against the Rams if Minnesota loses to the Bears, the Rams lose to the 49ers and the Eagles lose or tie against the Redskins. The Vikings would need to lose on Sunday vs. Chicago for this scenario, allowing the Bears to finish in a 12-4 tie with the Rams and move ahead due to the head-to-head tiebreaker Bears win vs. the Rams earlier this season.