Before yesterday’s 25-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, we brought you a guide for all of the games that would have been beneficial to the Minnesota Vikings in terms of the post-season picture.
Almost none of those things happened.
The only result that went the way the Vikings would have needed it to was the game between the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals. . .and while that one did give us the optimal result for the Vikings, it wasn’t that helpful because a Dolphins win makes the third and fourth-round picks the Vikings will be getting from Miami in the 2017 NFL Draft lower than they were when the day started. But, of the eight games that we featured that didn’t feature the purple, the Dolphins/Cardinals game was the only one that went a way that could benefit the Vikings’ playoff run.
As a result, not much has changed for the Vikings in the NFC playoff picture. Since the Monday Night game between New England and Baltimore has no effect on this, here’s how the NFC Playoff Picture looks right now.
#1 seed - Dallas Cowboys (11-2, NFC East leaders)
Yes, even though the Cowboys had their 11-game winning streak snapped on Sunday night, they’re still in very clear control of the race for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. They can formally clinch a first-round bye with a win over Tampa Bay next week and a Detroit win over the Giants.
Remaining games: vs Tampa Bay, vs Detroit, at Philadelphia
Speaking of Detroit. . .
#2 seed - Detroit Lions (9-4, NFC North leaders)
Thanks to yet another come-from-behind victory on Sunday, if the playoffs started today, the Lions would not only win the NFC North, they would have a bye on Wild Card weekend. As it stands now, the only way the Vikings can win a second straight NFC North title is if they win their final three games and Detroit loses their final three. Any Detroit win or Minnesota loss eliminates the Vikings from division title consideration. With the news yesterday of an injury to Matthew Stafford’s throwing hand, however, things could get a little more interesting with this race.
Remaining games: at New York Giants, at Dallas, vs Green Bay
#3 seed - Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1, NFC West leaders)
The Seahawks went into Green Bay on Sunday and got themselves absolutely thumped. Still, since the rest of the NFC West is awful, they can formally clinch their division with one more win and an Arizona loss. Since their final three games are all within that terrible division, it’s really not a matter of if the Seahawks get in, but when. They’ll be the only NFC West team in the field.
Remaining games: vs Los Angeles, vs Arizona, at San Francisco
#4 seed - Atlanta Falcons (8-5, NFC South leaders)
The Falcons, essentially, had a bye week on Sunday, as they got the chance to pound on the Los Angeles Rams and get themselves an easy victory. They’re currently tied with Tampa Bay at the top of the NFC South, but would claim the division crown if the season ended today thanks to their record against common opponents. They should have another easy one next week before finishing the year with two inter-division matchups against teams that are pretty much out of the picture.
Remaining games: vs San Francisco, at Carolina, vs New Orleans
#5 seed - New York Giants (9-4, wild card)
The Giants are now 2-0 against the Cowboys this season. There’s still an outside chance that they can catch Dallas for the NFC East crown if Dallas should stumble. But, for now, they’re in control of the wild card race. Again, the Vikings would win a head-to-head tiebreaker scenario against New York, but I’m not sure if the Giants are going to lose enough games to make that a possibility.
Remaining games: vs Detroit, at Philadelphia, at Washington
#6 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5, wild card)
Tampa held on to their playoff spot by notching their fifth consecutive victory against their division rivals from New Orleans. They have a trip to Dallas on the agenda next week, but are going to have to lose multiple games in order for the Vikings to pass them. If the Vikings and Buccaneers both finished at 10-6, Tampa Bay would win the tiebreaker based on superior conference record (7-5 to 6-6).
Remaining games: at Dallas, at New Orleans, vs Carolina
#7 seed - Washington Redskins (7-5-1)
Washington did what they had to do to keep pace on Sunday with a victory over Philadelphia. Their next two games, at least on paper, don’t appear to be killers or anything, but they do host the Giants in their season finale. That one could end up being huge for their post-season chances.
Remaining games: vs Carolina, at Chicago, vs New York Giants
#8 seed - Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
The Vikings won ugly on Sunday at Jacksonville, which they needed to do to really have any chance of getting themselves into the post-season. On Sunday they host an Indianapolis team that’s still in a fight for its playoff life, and if they can win that one, the Week 16 matchup at Lambeau Field looks like it will be pretty huge.
Remaining games: vs Indianapolis, at Green Bay, vs Chicago
#9 seed - Green Bay Packers (7-6)
Despite Aaron Rodgers being hobbled with what appears to be a pretty significant hamstring injury, the Packers throttled the Seahawks at home on Sunday to keep pace in the NFC. One more Detroit win and one more Green Bay loss eliminates the Packers from NFC North contention and, like the Vikings, another loss would likely snuff out their wild card hopes, too.
Remaining games: at Chicago, vs Minnesota, at Detroit
Still (mathematically) alive
#10 seed - Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)
#11 seed - New Orleans Saints (5-8)
#12 seed - Carolina Panthers (5-8)
#13 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (5-8)
None of these teams can do any better than eight wins, and that’s likely not going to be enough to get into the post-season in the NFC this year. It would take a whole lot of chaos to make that happen.
Officially eliminated from playoff consideration
#14 seed - Los Angeles Rams (4-9)
#15 seed - Chicago Bears (3-10)
#16 seed - San Francisco 49ers (1-12)
That’s your updated NFC playoff picture, folks. The Vikings did what they needed to do on Sunday, but didn’t get any cooperation along any other front in the playoff race. With three weeks to go, they still need to win out and get some help if they want to make the playoffs. Now, they turn their focus to Andrew Luck and the Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday.