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NFC Playoff Picture: The Vikings Are In It!

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We're halfway through the season now, so we can safely start looking at the playoff picture in the NFC. Also, we can look at it because, for the first time in a long time, the Minnesota Vikings are actually involved in it.

If the 2015 regular season were to end today. . .a lot of season ticket holders would be angry. But beyond that, the Minnesota Vikings would be the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs and would earn themselves a trip to play the NFC East champion New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs. The other wild card weekend match-up in the NFC would see the Atlanta Falcons travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals. Green Bay would be the #2 seed, and the road to Santa Clara would run through Charlotte, as the Carolina Panthers would be the #1 seed.

Given that the Packers and the Vikings are both 6-2 through their first eight games, we need to examine the tiebreaker procedures for the National Football League. For ties between teams within the same division, they go like this:

-Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
-Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
-Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
-Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
-Strength of victory.
-Strength of schedule.
-Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
-Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
-Best net points in common games.
-Best net points in all games.
-Best net touchdowns in all games.
-Coin toss.

The Vikings and Packers have not played head-to-head, so that doesn't enter into things yet. The second tiebreaker, if you'll notice, is win-loss percentage against teams within the division, so, the fact that the Vikings have three NFC North wins and the Packers have one doesn't matter. . .they're both still batting 1.000.

That brings us to the third tiebreaker, common opponents. . .again, based on win-loss percentage. So far, the Vikings and Packers have six common opponents. Here's how they've fared against them.

Opponent Vikings' Result Packers' Result
San Francisco 49ers L, 20-3 W, 17-3
San Diego Chargers W, 31-14 W, 27-20
Denver Broncos L, 23-20 L, 29-10
Kansas City Chiefs W, 16-10 W, 38-28
Chicago Bears W, 23-20 W, 31-23
St. Louis Rams W, 21-18 W, 24-17
Record 4-2 (.667) 5-1 (.833)

So, that's why the Packers are currently listed as the NFC North leaders and the Vikings as a wild card team. That loss to the Niners, even though it feels like it happened a year ago, is the deciding factor at this point.

Yes, we're only halfway through the season. . .but in 2013 and 2014, the Vikings' season was basically over at this point. 2015 has the look and feel of something much different thus far.