For Vikings fans who've pulled up 2021 NFL Draft tape for a dose of hope after another crushing loss, don't hit play just yet.
The Vikings haven't been mathematically eliminated from the postseason field. Sure, chances of Minnesota securing a spot aren't great. Not after a 33-27 loss to Chicago, a division opponent. In fact, the Vikings have a 2% chance of making the playoffs, according to fivethirtyeight.com, the analytics site for sports and politics.
But that number isn't 0%. We're telling you there's a chance, and it's slightly better than one in a million.
Yes, it's 1-in-50.
The Vikings cannot afford to lose, though. The playoffs basically start for Minnesota on Christmas afternoon in New Orleans.
Here's a look at the key Week 15 results that played a role in this bleak playoff path before a dive into scenarios for the next two weeks:
1. Cardinals edge Eagles 33-26
This victory for Arizona is the one that most makes Minnesota's return to the postseason difficult. Philadelphia made it difficult for the Cardinals, but a fourth-quarter DeAndre Hopkins touchdown kept the Cardinals in the seventh and final wild card spot. Arizona (8-6) holds a two-game lead on Minnesota.
2. Buccaneers come back to defeat Falcons 31-27
Tom Brady returned to crushing the spirits of Falcons fans as the former Patriots quarterback engineered yet another colossal comeback over Atlanta. This is noteworthy for the Vikings because Minnesota now has no mathematical possibility of edging the Buccaneers for a playoff spot. Tampa Bay (9-5) cannot finish with a worse record than the Vikings.
3. Browns beat Giants 20-6
New York likely would not have been the one team to stop the Vikings from the playoffs, but this result makes the Vikings path slightly easier. Yes, something good happened for the Vikings on Sunday. The Giants (5-9) loss kept them in second behind Washington (6-8) in the NFC East. If Washington wins out, it will remain in the fourth seed. If it loses one more game, Washington won't be in competition with the Vikings or anyone else for a wild card spot. A Giants win over the Browns could have added yet another element of difficulty to the Vikings' path.
Where does this leave the Vikings? They need help, in addition to winning games against the Saints on Friday and Detroit to close the season on Jan. 3.
Here are the three scenarios for the Vikings the final two weeks:
The Vikings finish 2-0: To make the playoffs, Minnesota will also need Arizona to lose out and Chicago to lose at least one of two. If that happens, each finishes 8-8. The Vikings and Cardinals would also be tied in conference games, so the tiebreaker moves to common games. Minnesota would hold a one-game margin (3-2 vs. 2-3) in those games: Detroit, Carolina, Dallas and Seattle.
The Bears and Vikings beat each other this season, so division record becomes the next tiebreaker. Minnesota would get the nod over Chicago. Even if the Bears' one remaining win comes against Green Bay in Week 17, the Vikings will still have a better division record in this scenario.
One thing to watch for that match-up: The Packers might not have something for which to play Week 17, though. If Green Bay wins next week and New Orleans and Seattle lose, the Packers secure the top seed and home field advantage. So, some Packers' starters could see a break against Chicago in the final game.
Vikings finish 1-1: Onto next year. The Vikings finish 7-9, a record to which none of the three current wild card teams (Rams, Buccaneers, Cardinals) can fall. Postseason hopes will be over by Christmas night if New Orleans beats Minnesota.
Vikings finish 0-2: See above, but the Vikings end the year on a four-game losing streak. Go ahead and hit play on that YouTube clip of your favorite draft prospects.