Well, they may not be as much of a Super Bowl favorite as they were to begin the season, but the Vikings still have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs with four games left to play. A more detailed look at the remaining schedule for potential playoff contenders makes that more clear. Here is a look:
They play at Seattle in what may be the pivotal game in terms of who gets the higher wild card spot. A win here would also keep them in contention for the NFC North division title.
Here’s where things look more favorable for the Vikings. As it stands now, the Vikings are the 6th seed, and the Seahawks the 5th seed. The Cowboys, Bears, Saints and Rams are the division leaders. Okay.
But those on the heels of the Vikings for the 6th and final playoff seed are not looking at particularly favorable schedules the rest of the way. Here’s what I mean:
The Panthers are the 7th seed currently, but have gone from 6-2 to 6-6 over the past four weeks, and some say they could finish 6-10. They play the Saints twice in the last four weeks, and also the Falcons and a much better Browns team on the road. To me, that looks like an 8-8 record at best by the end of the season.
The Eagles are currently the 8th seed, also at 6-6, and the Vikings have the head-to-head matchup advantage against them as well. More than that, the Eagles remaining schedule is at Dallas, at the Rams, Texans at home, and at Washington to end the season. Again, an 8-8 record looks about the best case scenario for the Eagles here, and 7-9 would not be the least bit surprising given their remaining schedule.
Washington is also 6-6, and the 9th seed, but now on their 3rd string QB to finish the season. The Giants at home, the Jags and Titans on the road, before finishing at home against the Eagles isn’t too bad a schedule, but the Redskins with Mark Sanchez are going to need Adrian Peterson about as much as the Christian Ponder-led Vikings did, and even then it’s a tough road. I don’t see the Redskins winning more than two more games, and they may go 0-4, or 0-7 really, to finish the season.
At 5-7 and the 10th seed, the Buccaneers are not officially eliminated yet, but would need to win all their games to have a chance - Saints, at Ravens and Cowboys, home against the Falcons. Good luck.
At 4-7-1, the Packers are pretty much done, but I put them on there as a theoretical possibility to land the last wild card spot. The play the Falcons, at the Bears and Jets, before finishing at home against the Lions in what could be the NFC North basement bowl.
What Does That All Mean ?
When you break it down this way, 8-7-1 looks pretty good as far as taking the 6th seed at this point. Sure, the Panthers or Eagles could catch fire and run the table, but more realistically I don’t see any of the Vikings contenders for a 6th seed wild card spot finishing the season any better than 8-8.
That means the Vikings could still lose to the Seahawks and Bears, so long as they beat the Dolphins at home and the Lions in Detroit, and still make the playoffs.
And if that happened they would likely face the Bears again at Soldier Field in the first round of the playoffs, with a less likely, but still possible chance of facing the Cowboys on the road.
On the other hand, if the Vikings finish strong and go 4-0 to finish the season, I suspect they would take the NFC North crown again and face either the Bears at home (for the 2nd straight week) or the Seahawks.
Bottom line, the Vikings need to take care of business the next three weeks, and then have a damn good game plan to beat the Bears more than once if need be.
How will the Vikings finish the regular season ?
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