On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings had their eight-game winning streak snapped, as they fell to the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte by a final score of 31-24. As you’d expect, the loss affected the Vikings’ postseason outlook, but only marginally so. Yes, barring a collapse that would be incredibly epic (yes, even for the Vikings), this team is still going to the playoffs and is going to get at least one home game as the NFC North champions. However, they did lose a little bit of position because of their loss today.
With the two remaining games in Week 14 being all-AFC contests that are not going to affect the NFC playoff picture, we have an opportunity to reset everything and see where everyone stands at this point.
#1 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (11-2, NFC East champions)
With their victory in Los Angeles this afternoon, the Eagles became the first team to officially clinch a playoff spot in the National Football League (the Pittsburgh Steelers will become the second if they win on Sunday Night Football). However, their victory came with a huge price, as MVP front-runner Carson Wentz has reportedly torn his ACL, an injury that will cause him to miss the rest of the season. Yes, the Eagles currently sit a game ahead of the Vikings for the top overall seed in the NFC and don’t exactly play a murderer’s row of opponents to finish the season, but man. . .that stinks for them. In the context of the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, however, it does make them markedly more vulnerable.
Remaining schedule: at New York Giants, vs Oakland, vs Dallas
#2 seed - Minnesota Vikings (10-3, NFC North leaders)
Even with their loss today, the folks from 538 give the Vikings an 84% chance of locking up a first-round bye. The Vikings need to win one more game to secure the NFC North, and two more victories should guarantee them that first-round bye with the tiebreaker advantages they’d have over both New Orleans and Los Angeles. (If Carolina leapfrogs New Orleans. . .well, we can worry about that when it happens.) I know we’re all disappointed with the results we saw this afternoon, but our favorite team is still in a very good position, and with the two home games they have remaining, they should be able to lock up a week off before the divisional round of the playoffs.
Remaining schedule: vs Cincinnati, at Green Bay, vs Chicago
#3 seed - Los Angeles Rams (9-4, NFC West leaders, at #3 due to head-to-head win over New Orleans)
The Rams lost a very tough game to the Eagles on Sunday, but did get a bit of a break as far as the NFC West race is concerned with Seattle falling to Jacksonville in the Sunday late games. Speaking of Seattle, the Rams have to travel up there in Week 15, and a Seattle win would be a huge issue for the Rams as Seattle won the first matchup between these two teams. They also have a road trip to take on a Tennessee Titans’ team that would also be in the playoffs if the postseason started today.
Remaining schedule: at Seattle, at Tennessee, vs San Francisco
#4 seed - New Orleans Saints (9-4, NFC South leaders, at #4 due to head-to-head sweep of Carolina)
The Saints probably should have won on Thursday night in Atlanta, but. . .well, they didn’t. They’ll get another crack at Atlanta in their house in Week 16, and a loss in that one is going to make things awfully interesting in the NFC South.
Remaining schedule: vs New York Jets, vs Atlanta, at Tampa Bay
#5 seed - Carolina Panthers (9-4, wild card #1)
Carolina kept themselves alive in the NFC South battle royale with their win today, but they do have the disadvantage of having already been swept by New Orleans. They have what could be a tough one coming next week against a certain team that may or may not be bringing back a certain quarterback, and they finish the season with a trip to Atlanta.
Remaining schedule: vs Green Bay, vs Tampa Bay, at Atlanta
#6 seed - Atlanta Falcons (8-5, wild card #2, at #6 due to head-to-head victory over Seattle)
The Falcons win on Thursday, coupled with Seattle’s loss today, has catapulted the Falcons back into the postseason bracket. They will play each of their three NFC South rivals to finish the season, and given that they already have a victory over New Orleans and a loss to Carolina, they might have more influence than anyone over how that division finishes. If they win out, they win the NFC South. If they don’t, they’re going to be at the mercy of the wild card race.
Remaining schedule: at Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, vs Carolina
Outside Looking In
#7 seed - Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
#8 seed - Detroit Lions (7-6, at #8 due to head-to-head win over Green Bay and better common games record than Dallas)
#9 seed - Green Bay Packers (7-6, at #9 due to head-to-head win over Dallas)
#10 seed - Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
#11 seed - Arizona Cardinals (6-7)
Officially Mathematically Eliminated
#12 seed - Washington Redskins (5-8)
#13 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9, at #13 due to head-to-head win over Chicago)
#14 seed - Chicago Bears (4-9)
#15 seed - San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
#16 seed - New York Giants (2-11)
So fear not, fans of the purple. While today was not the result that we wanted to see, things are still going very, very well for our favorite football team.