There are just five games left to go in the 2018 NFL regular season, and the playoff chase is really going to start heating up. Since the Monday Night Football game isn’t going to do anything to change the NFC playoff picture, let’s take a look at where the field stacks up with five weeks remaining. Ted will be along later this week with his post about the probabilities and what not, but this is a snapshot of how things look right now and where the Minnesota Vikings fit into things.
Seedings are based on the CBS Sports Playoff Race page. They also have explanations of all the current tiebreakers.
#1 seed - New Orleans Saints (10-1, NFC South leaders, at #1 because of head-to-head tiebreaker over Los Angeles)
The #1 seed in the NFC is going to come down to New Orleans and Los Angeles. Los Angeles is going to need New Orleans to stumble in order to take back the #1 seed, given that New Orleans won when the two teams met head-to-head a few weeks ago. They look damn near invincible at home, but if the Vikings want to make it to Super Bowl LIII, they’re likely going to have to go through the Big Easy.
Remaining schedule - at Dallas, at Tampa Bay, at Carolina, vs Pittsburgh, vs Carolina
#2 seed - Los Angeles Rams (10-1, NFC West leaders)
The Rams could end up being the first team in the NFC to clinch a playoff spot, as they’ll wrap up the NFC West with either a victory of their own or a loss by Seattle. Like they did with the Saints, we saw the Vikings hang with the Rams when the teams met earlier in the season, and the Rams will be without Cooper Kupp the rest of the way, but they’re still a very, very tough out.
Remaining schedule - at Detroit, at Chicago, vs Philadelphia, at Arizona, vs San Francisco
#3 seed - Chicago Bears (8-3, NFC North leaders)
The Bears are pretty firmly entrenched in the #3 spot for now, as the NFC East division leader likely isn’t going to overtake them, and I don’t like their chances of catching the Rams and/or Saints (even though they do have a Sunday night game against the Rams coming up). We know how solid the Bears are on defense, and if their offense can catch up, they could potentially make things interesting for either of those top two seeds.
Remaining schedule - at New York Giants, vs Los Angeles Rams, vs Green Bay, at San Francisco, at Minnesota
#4 seed - Dallas Cowboys (6-5, NFC East leaders, at #4 because of superior divisional record to Washington)
With their victory over Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys vaulted themselves over their hated rivals and into the top spot in the NFC East. That means they would host a playoff game if the season were to end today. They do have a big matchup against the Saints coming up on Thursday Night Football, but other than that their schedule is not exactly a killer, and they won’t see Washington again this season. The NFC East could come right down to the wire.
Remaining schedule - vs New Orleans, vs Philadelphia, at Indianapolis, vs Tampa Bay, at New York Giants
#5 seed - Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1, #1 in Wild Card race)
As was expressed numerous times on the broadcast of Sunday Night Football this evening, the Vikings greatly enhanced their chances of making it to the postseason with their victory over the Green Bay Packers. They still have a couple of very tough games coming up, and though it doesn’t appear that the NFC North is a possibility anymore at this point, if the Bears do stumble, that Week 17 game at U.S. Bank Stadium could put on a little added meaning.
Remaining schedule - at New England, at Seattle, vs Miami, at Detroit, vs Chicago
#6 seed - Washington Redskins (6-5, #2 in Wild Card race, at #6 due to superior conference record to Seattle)
The Redskins are still in the Wild Card race, but you have to wonder how strong their grip is on things now that Alex Smith is done for the season and they’re apparently pulling offensive linemen out of the stands at FedEx Field. They have a couple of interesting AFC South matchups sandwiched in-between three divisional games, but injuries might end up taking their toll. If the season ended today, however, they’d be in.
Remaining schedule - at Philadelphia, vs New York Giants, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, vs Philadelphia
Outside looking in
#7 seed - Seattle Seahawks (6-5)
#8 seed - Carolina Panthers (6-5)
#9 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
#10 seed - Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)
#11 seed - Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
#12 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
#13 seed - Detroit Lions (4-7)
#14 seed - New York Giants (3-8)
#15 seed - Arizona Cardinals (2-9)
#16 seed - San Francisco 49ers (2-9)
That’s a quick look at the playoff picture, folks. Hopefully the Vikings can continue to strengthen their grip on a playoff spot, because I’d hate for this team to not be playing in January.