With Sunday night's disembowelment of the New York Giants, the Minnesota Vikings clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, but who they play--and where--has yet to be determined.
The Vikings could end up either as a number three, five, or six seed, depending on the outcome of Sunday's games. Based on their seeding, their opponent will be one of the three following teams:
As a #6 seed: at Green Bay
As a #5 seed: at Washington
As a #3 seed: home against Seattle
Let's take a look at those three potential games.
At Green Bay: if the Vikings play the Packers in back to back weeks, it means Green Bay pulled it together, swept the season series against Minnesota (again), and the Vikings will once again face a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that has pretty much owned Minnesota for most of his career. I really like Minnesota's chances Sunday night against the Pack, but then again I really liked them about a month ago at home, too. Green Bay had lost three straight including a home loss to Detroit, was really out of sync on both sides of the ball, and the Vikings had them on their home field with a chance to take what was essentially a three game lead in the division once you added in tiebreakers. So of course, the Vikings took a 30-13 face shot, and they now have to win at Lambeau to win the division.
This is my least favorite playoff scenario. I know it's really tough to beat one team three times in a season, but a loss Sunday Night would be a tough mental hurdle to get over in one week. I know the Packers are vulnerable, but I thought they looked even more vulnerable last month, and we know how that turned out. I want the Vikings to beat the Packers Sunday night, because I want to see the Vikings win the division and kick Green Bay to the number six seed and be clear of them for the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
At Washington: From reading the comments from the DN community, this seems to be the first round opponent of choice for most fans. This is my second least favorite matchup, and you're probably thinking to yourself 'hey Ted, shut up and go back into hibernation.' Here's my reasoning--the team with the hot hand is generally the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs, and Washington is playing better than anyone in the NFC right now, save Carolina. They have won three straight, 4 of 5, and will probably beat Dallas Sunday. Kirk Cousins has morphed from a LOLWUT joke into a legitimate NFL quarterback, and with DeSean Jackson back and healthy, they have one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL.
This is the first home playoff game for the Redskins since 2012, and like the Vikings fan base starved for success, the Redskins fans will make the Fed Ex Field environment one of the most hostile in the NFL. With a hot offense and a defense that's just good enough, in their house? No, I'll take a pass.
Seattle, at home: I don't care that the Seahawks trounced the Vikings 38-7; that Vikings defense that played most of that game isn't the defense the Seattle will see the second time around. Both FS Harrison Smith and LB Anthony Barr re-aggravated injuries on the first series and missed most of the game. Linval Joseph and Andrew Sendejo didn't even play, a vast majority of the Vikings safety tandem for that game was Antone Exum and Robert Blanton, and a good team like the Seahawks took advantage of it.
Seattle had been on a roll, but looked very ordinary against a St. Louis Rams defense that has a lot of similarities to the Vikings--relentless pressure from a talented and deep line, aggressive corners that are very good in press coverage, and an athletic linebacking corps that when healthy, can keep Russell Wilson contained. there's a good chance they'll lose to the cardinals on Sunday, which would give them a two game losing streak heading into the post-season, which is not how you want to be playing at the most important time of the year.
But most importantly, at least for fans, it's a home playoff game, and the Seahawks are the defending NFC Champions. I want this team to face the best, and to beat the best, and I personally think they deserve a home game. As latter day philosopher and man of the people Ric Flair has famously said...'to be the man, you gotta beat the man.'
The final season in TCF Bank Stadium has been a great year, and one that is out of the ordinary for teams in a temporary location. For a loyal group of fans that hasn't seen a post season game at home since 2009, a season ending win to beat Green Bay to win the division, followed by a home playoff game with a good chance to knock off the defending NFC Champions would be a heck of a way to say goodbye to the Bank.
So if I had my way, I would rank order the playoff scenarios as home against Seattle, on the road against Washington, and then on the road to face Green Bay.
Who would you like to see in the Wild Card Round?