in a season that went from 'my-beer-mug-is-half-full' to 'where-the-hell-did-my-beer-go??', this might end up being a fruitless examination of how the final quarter of the season could play out in the NFC. but what the hell, it's nice knowing what the icy road looks like before you inevitably crash.
as it stands right now, here is the playoff picture:
Atlanta has (unsurprisingly) clinched a playoff spot. everything else is still up for grabs. most people would think these are the likely contenders to solidify the playoff seeds over the next few weeks... but is that really the case...?? let's dive a little deeper...
still in the playoff hunt:
alright -- for the Vikes to even have a chance, i think it's safe to say we're gonna have to win out to have a shot at a WC spot (we probably wouldn't even get too far with a Percy-less squad, but that isn't the purpose of this exercise!!). so for gits and shiggles, let's assume we win out and finish 10-6. that's a tall order, and would be a moral victory in itself -- but what else needs to happen for our beloved Vikes to make the playoffs??
looking at the remaining schedules, some teams have a cakewalk, others have a tough haul ahead (albeit not as tough as ours). i think the following teams have their work cut out for them:
N.Y. Giants (NO, @ATL, BAL, PHI)
Dallas (@CIN, PIT, NO, @WAS)
Tampa Bay (PHI, @NO, STL, @ATL)
in our scenario, any of these teams would have to hit 10-6 to at least tie us -- and i really don't think Dallas and TB will win out (it's bad enough i'm assuming that WE can win out...), and call me crazy, but i don't think the Giants can take 3 out of the final 4 against those teams. chalk up these teams to being OUT.
i cautiously rule the Giants out, but only because i think Washington can win 3 or all of their remaining games (BAL, @CLE, @PHI, DAL) -- and the Giants are unlikely to win a tiebreaker in the event they hit a 9-7 or 8-8 tie with the Redskins (who, if you haven't figured out by now, i predict will win the East).
skipping over to the West, it's really anyone's guess who can win the division... i don't think the 49ers end the season any worse than 10-5-1 (MIA, @NE, @SEA, ARI), but the Seahawks have a nice looking finish with three home games (ARI, @BUF, SF, STL). this is where the real problem lies, because it's entirely possible Seattle will win out with that schedule to win the West. so for our purposes, we need to hope the 49ers continue to struggle and lose 3 of their final 4, thus missing the playoffs altogether (who'da thunk it...??), and Seattle takes the West. another scenario would be SF taking no worse than a 2-2 finish, which would ensure at least a WC spot; but, if Seattle finishes out 2-2, they could miss that playoffs altogether (again, assuming the Vikes can win out). like i said, still wide open... but i foresee Seattle having the easier time winning the West.
onto the bread and butter -- the NFC North. here's our rivals' remaining schedules:
Green Bay (DET, @CHI, TEN, @MIN)
Chicago (@MIN, GB, @ARI, @DET)
in our win-out scenario, and with each team facing each other one last time, the best either GB or Chicago can do is one team finishing 11-5 and the other 10-6. my head hurts thinking of the possibilities. however, things don't look as hot for Chicago... three away games (even against 'lesser' teams, it's a tough way to end the season), injuries mounting to significant players... plus, i kind of have to stand by my pre-season prediction that the Bears would fold during the second half of the season. so as much as it pains me to say... GB will take the North.
to beat the Bears in a tiebreaker (if memory serves), we'll need a better divisional record. if we win out, our divisional record will be 4-2. if the Bears also end with that divisional record, they'll have a better record against the conference, so we lose that tiebreaker (and actually, if i'm doing the math correctly in my head, that would mean a three-way tie between us, the Bears, and the Packers... also, in which case, we wouldn't make the playoffs). long story short -- if the Bears end 10-6, their other loss (other than to us) better be at the hands of the Packers or the Lions.
this literally could come down to the final week, which would make for some exciting football!!
quick recap of who wins what, in my (hopeful and twisted) mind:
|Seattle/ SF||West / WC|
so... a LOT of things needs to happen for the Vikes to make the playoffs. obviously we're going to cheer against our rivals and every other NFC team standing in our way, but given the schedules of some of my predicted division winners, i think there's a priority list to go by to keep things a little more clear-cut:
1) Vikes need to win out.
2) cheer against the Bears.
3) cheer against the 49ers.
4) cheer against the Giants.
certainly a lot of factors go into it and there's no perfect 'formula'... but the way i see it, this is the 'headache-free' way of who to especially root against.
highly unlikely...?? absolutely.
fun to hold out hope...?? well, we're used to that. =)