For the second straight week, NBC’s Sunday Night Football features dueling NFC North rivals chasing a playoff spot. But with the Chicago Bears sitting comfortably at home enjoying leftovers following their Thanksgiving carving of the Detroit Lions, it’s the Minnesota Vikings playing host to the Green Bay Packers in a game with MAJOR postseason implications.
Let’s check out the playoff picture featuring the top three teams in the NFC North heading into this contest, via FiveThirtyEight.
FiveThirtyEight: 2018 Playoff and Division Odds
- BEARS: 96% make playoffs, 84% win division
- Vikings: 51% make playoffs, 13% win division
- Packers: 16% make playoffs, 3% win division
As you can see, things are looking GREAT for a Bears team so tantalizingly close to reaching a postseason appearance for the first time since 2010. Things could be worse for the Vikings, who have the sixth best playoff odds among NFC teams trying to squeeze into the postseason tournament. And then there are the Packers, who have the 10th best odds among teams in the NFC playoff picture. That pretty much makes tonight’s game between the Vikings and Packers a potential knockout game for Green Bay. Have fun with that!
But to fully capture the spirit of the thing tonight, let’s check out the secenarios the New York Times playoff simulator can cook up for us.
New York Times NFL Playoff Simulator
There are 39 septillion different ways the 2018 NFL season could end, according to the New York Times’ playoff simulator, and here’s how the math plays out leading into Sunday’s Vikings-Packers matchup:
- BEARS: 96% make playoffs, 83% win division
- Vikings: 48% make playoffs, 12% win division
- Packers: 23% make playoffs, 4% win division
Again, things are looking downright scrumptious for the Bears and not-so-appetizing for the Vikings or Packers. In fact, the NYT’s playoff simulator math shows Seattle (66%) and Washington (49%) making the postseason in more scenarios than Minnesota, while Carolina (35%) slides in at a higher clip than Green Bay. Once again, this shows how important tonight’s game is for both teams. Let’s call it what it is – a virtual playoff game. Juicy, ain’t it?
Tonight’s game is a swing game in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC. If the Vikings win, their playoff odds jump to 66 percent. But if they were to lose tonight’s matchup, those odds drop to 27 percent. Yikes! And since we can’t rule out a tie when these two rivals get together, it’s worth noting that a knotted score after 75 minutes of play drops their odds to 45 percent.
As it stands, the Vikings would make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in 24 percent of NYT’s simulations. That would set up a rematch against the Bears at Soldier Field. Bring it on!
On the other hand, a win by the Packers would breathe new life into That Team In Wisconsin. Isn’t that the last thing you want as a Bears fan? A Green Bay win would boost their playoff odds to 41 percent, while a loss would slash their chances down to 11 percent. Playing to a draw would decrease their playoff chances to 19 percent. In 10 percent of the simulations, the Packers make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, which would set up a third game against the Bears. But still … that seems like a long shot. So in other words, this is a virtual must-win for the Packers.
This is where one would normally wish good luck to the competitors before game time, but I’m going to spend my final hour before kickoff trying to calculate ways both teams can lose. Surely, that possibility is out there somewhere.