Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE
Of the two macro scenarios where the Vikings win four games, the one that seems more likely is the one where they do not capture the division.
The Vikings could conceivably win four while both the Bears and the Packers finish out the season with 11 wins, giving the Vikings the sixth seed, and a likely rematch against a divisional rival at their stadium.
In fact, it seems simple for one of the teams to get to 11 wins, because the Bears only need three of their next five—and matchups against Detroit, Arizona, a suspension-hurt Seattle and Minnesota are ripe for that sort of record—in order to clinch the division, even if they lost to Green Bay.
The Packers need four to get to 11 wins, and that would be tough knowing that the simulation calls for one Minnesota loss, but aside from their matchup in Chicago, they clearly outclass the rest of their schedule.
Minnesota could also split games with Green Bay while Chicago loses its two games outside the division (and one to Minnesota), for everyone to finish 10-6. In that case, Green Bay would win the division because it would have beaten Chicago twice and Minnesota once (3-1), while Minnesota would be 2-2 in their four games against both teams.
There is little chance Seattle or Tampa Bay could push Minnesota out if they won four games, because the Seahawks would have to take one away from Chicago or San Francisco without the help of their starting corners while at the same time, Tampa Bay wins two out of the three most difficult games they have—against New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta.
Still, it's possible. The Vikings are not in control of their destiny if they win an astonishing four of their next five games because of their losses to the Buccaneers and the Seahawks. In order for the Vikings to advance with four wins, they would need either Seattle or Tampa Bay to lose two games. Green Bay would not have a shot at spoiling it because of their losses to San Francisco and Seattle.
That is, if four teams go 10-6 and at least two of them are in the same division, the divisional tiebreaker is used to eliminate one team. In this case, it would be Green Bay, because of their common games. Then, the Vikings would go up against Tampa Bay and Seattle in the tiebreakers and lose there.
There is an outside shot that Dallas or Washington spoils the party by winning out. If they do that, the New York Giants would push everyone down because of their conference record—if the Giants go 10-6 (they are 7-4 now), they would likely take the tiebreakers because two of their losses were to AFC teams and their most likely next losses would be to at least one AFC team as well.
Seattle's losses have all been to NFC teams, which is also true for Tampa Bay. Minnesota will max out at two AFC losses because they've only lost one and have one more on the schedule.
Don't mistake the number of scenarios for increased likelihood, however. All because there are more ways for the Vikings to leave the playoffs with a 10-6 record doesn't mean those ways are more likely. If the Vikings went 10-6, they would more likely than not make it to the playoffs because of the unlikelihood of two teams running the table (Washington or Dallas) or winning four (Seattle or Tampa Bay).
The chances of winning four games stand at just below ten percent, and they make the playoffs in nearly every case—about 95 percent of the time.