I went on a bit of a spiel last week about all of the different ways the Minnesota Vikings could get into the 2012 NFC playoffs, involving the Vikings winning and certain teams losing and all sorts of other permutations of the schedule.
Well, the Vikings' 23-6 victory over the Houston Texans, coupled with the Dallas Cowboys 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints (who the Vikings officially eliminated with their win. . .awesome) and the thrashing that the New York Giants are taking from the Baltimore Ravens. . .the score is 30-7 with about nine minutes remaining in the game as I type this. . .have clarified things greatly for the Vikings.
Here's the easiest Vikings' playoff scenario:
Beat the Green Bay Packers in the season finale next Sunday, make the playoffs.
That's it. That's the scenario. That's all that needs to be done. The Giants' (impending) loss means that the Vikings officially control their own destiny. Can't ask for a whole lot more than that going into the final week of the season, right?
Even if the Vikings should lose to the Packers next week, they can still get in at 9-7. In order for that to happen, the following things would all have to occur:
That would put the Vikings and Bears at 9-7, and the Cowboys and Giants both at 8-8. The Vikings would then trump the Bears based on a superior division record (3-3 vs. 2-4 in the scenario detailed above) and get into the playoffs.
A 9-7 tie with the Giants would put New York into the playoffs based on a superior conference record (8-4 for the Giants in that scenario vs. 6-6 for Minnesota). The Cowboys getting to 9-7 by virtue of beating the Redskins would give Dallas the NFC East title and put the Vikings in a tie-breaker scenario against Washington, which they would lose because of the head-to-head loss they suffered against the Redskins in Week 6.
And, obviously, if the Bears win and the Vikings lose, Chicago would leapfrog Minnesota and end up in the playoffs.
So, after all of the scenarios that we went through last week, there are just two this week. . .the 10-6 scenario (which is easy to figure out) and the 9-7 scenario (which is where things get a bit tricky). Hopefully the Vikings will take the easy road next week at the Metrodome.