Since tonight’s Monday Night Football contest doesn’t affect the playoff picture for the Minnesota Vikings in any meaningful way, we can take a look at where things currently stand in the NFC playoff picture. For a team that started 5-0 and has proceeded to lose six of its last seven, I’m not going to lie. . .it’s looking a little ugly and the road is starting to get more narrow for the purple and gold to make their first consecutive post-season appearances since 2008 and 2009.
Here is where the seedings stand in the NFC right now.
#1 seed - Dallas Cowboys (11-1 overall, 7-1 NFC, 3-1 division)
Barring a complete collapse by the Cowboys, the road to Super Bowl LI is going to run through Jerryworld. Dallas lost in Week 1 and hasn’t lost since, although the Vikings at least made them work for it, I guess. They’ve put some distance between themselves and the 2-seed, and yesterday became the first team to clinch a post-season spot.
Remaining games: at New York Giants, vs Tampa Bay, vs Detroit, at Philadelphia
#2 seed - Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1, 4-3-1 NFC, 1-1-1 division)
The Seahawks are buoyed a bit by the fact that the rest of the NFC West is awful. After a trip to Green Bay this coming weekend, they finish things off with three consecutive games against their division rivals. The big story for the Seahawks might be the injury to safety Earl Thomas, who is likely done for the season after getting hurt last night against Carolina.
Remaining games: at Green Bay, vs Los Angeles, vs Arizona, at San Francisco
#3 seed - Detroit Lions (8-4, 6-2 NFC, 2-2 division)
I mentioned yesterday in our cheering guide that the Vikings’ best hope for a playoff spot would likely be winning the NFC North. That took a significant hit yesterday when the Lions beat New Orleans. Winning the NFC North would not only require the Vikings to run the table, but would require the Lions to lose at least three of their last four. I try to be as optimistic as anyone, but I don’t see it happening. Sorry, gang.
Remaining games: vs Chicago, at New York Giants, at Dallas, vs Green Bay
#4 seed - Atlanta Falcons (7-5, 5-3 NFC, 3-1 division)
Following their heart-wrenching loss to the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, the Falcons find themselves tied for the top spot in the NFC South with Tampa Bay, but currently have the top spot based on division record. Those two teams have already split their head-to-head matchups, so that record within the NFC South will serve as the primary tiebreaker if these teams end up even.
Remaining games: at Los Angeles, vs San Francisco, at Carolina, vs New Orleans
#5 seed - New York Football Giants (8-4, 5-3 NFC, 2-1 division)
The Giants are one of the few teams that the Vikings would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with, but it would require them to do quite a bit of stumbling to get to that point, along with the Vikings doing a lot of winning. New York has a couple of tough games on the schedule and three divisional matchups, which are always unpredictable. Still, they’ve positioned themselves pretty well, from the looks of things.
Remaining games: vs Dallas, vs Detroit, at Philadelphia, at Washington
#6 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5, 5-3 NFC, 2-1 division)
After defeating San Diego yesterday, the Buccaneers have pushed their way into the playoff picture. They won’t get another shot at Atlanta this season, but they do have three divisional games left to Atlanta’s two, including two games against New Orleans in three weeks. They also have a trip to Dallas on the schedule in a couple of weeks in a game that has been flexed into prime time.
Remaining games: vs New Orleans, at Dallas, at New Orleans, vs Carolina
#7 seed - Washington Redskins (6-5-1, 4-4 NFC, 2-2 division)
Washington having a tie on their record could play to their advantage. If it’s going to take 10 wins to make the playoffs, a 10-5-1 Washington team would get in over a 10-6 team. Washington doesn’t exactly have a killer schedule down the stretch, so they could make things interesting.
Remaining games: at Philadelphia, vs Carolina, at Chicago, vs New York Giants
#8 seed - Minnesota Vikings (6-6, 4-6 NFC, 1-3 division)
Those last two numbers for the Vikings are going to kill them in any potential tiebreaker situation. The best they can do is .500 in the conference and .500 in the division, which generally isn’t good enough to get in as part of a tiebreaker scenario. Any scenario that has the Vikings making the playoffs is going to involve them winning their final four games, so if they lose at any point between now and the end of the season, they’re not going to have to worry about tiebreakers anyway.
Remaining games: at Jacksonville, vs Indianapolis, at Green Bay, vs Chicago
#9 seed - Green Bay Packers (6-6, 4-4 NFC, 2-1 division)
Green Bay is behind Minnesota based on their head-to-head matchup in Week 2. Based on their victory over Detroit earlier in the season, the Packers theoretically have a better chance of catching the Lions than the Vikings do, but much like in the Vikings’ case it’s going to require Detroit to fall apart a bit.
Remaining games: vs Seattle, at Chicago, vs Minnesota, at Detroit
The rest of the field:
#10 seed - Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1, 4-4-1 NFC, 2-1-1 division)
#11 seed - New Orleans Saints (5-7, 4-4 NFC, 2-2 division)
#12 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (5-7, 3-6 NFC, 0-3 division)
#13 seed - Carolina Panthers (4-8, 4-5 NFC, 1-3 division)
#14 seed - Los Angeles Rams (4-8, 3-5 NFC, 2-1 division)
#15 seed - Chicago Bears (3-9, 3-5 NFC, 2-1 division)
#16 seed - San Francisco 49ers (1-11, 1-8 NFC, 1-3 division)
The teams in the “rest of the field” category can’t do any better than nine wins, and I’m going to assume that’s not going to be enough to get in. Sure, stranger things have happened in the NFL, but I feel pretty safe in that assumption.
So, as you can see, the battle for the Minnesota Vikings to get into the post-season is definitely going to be an uphill one. As the old cliche goes, they can only go one game at a time, and it starts on Sunday in Jacksonville.