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NFC Playoff picture: Vikings take huge step towards the playoffs with Cowboys win

The Vikings are driving towards the playoffs as things heat up in the NFC

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

So...NOW is it okay to start talking playoffs?

The last time I did this back in October, there was a fairly decent contingent of you that felt it was way too early to start talking playoffs, like you were all still mad about season eight of Game of Thrones or something and wanted to take it out on me.

Whatever, it was just a TV show. It’s not like it was as bad as the ending of Dexter, fergodsakes. Anyway, before you all run off to not watch the new Disney Streaming Service because it’s apparently being run by the federal government, let’s talk playoffs. As has been the case, I use two main sites to get the playoff percentages and seeding, the 538 NFL playoff predictor, and Playoff Predictors Dot Com.

10 weeks in to the NFL season, the Vikings are closing in on a playoff spot, and are still within striking distance of the NFC North division title. Back in October, when the Vikes had just come off a big win against the Eagles to move to 4-2, their playoff odds stood at 53%, and the Bears and Lions still had legitimate paths to the playoffs:

Some 30 days later, the playoff picture in the NFC, and in particular the NFC North, has some clarity. It’s become a two team race, with the despised Green Bay Packers the current favorites to win the division:

It looks like both the Packers and the Vikings are a lock to make the playoffs, and although the Packers are in the driver’s sat for the division title and a home playoff game, at a minimum, the Vikings aren’t out of it. They’ll need some help, and they can’t afford to lose any more ground, but it can be done. They still have a home game with Green Bay the second to last week of the season, and that game is shaping up to be one that will potentially decide who wins the NFC North.

Now let’s focus on the Wildcard race in the NFC. The current fifth seed is Seattle, who the Vikings play in three weeks. Minnesota holds the sixth seed, with the Rams, Philly, and Carolina all sitting at 5-4. Here’s what 538 tells us the playoff odds for those three teams are:

Seattle’s overtime win against San Francisco really helped them in their chance to not only make the playoffs, but win the division. Yet the Vikings still have an overall better shot at making the post-season than Seattle does, albeit by a scant four percent. The Seahawks are in a similar situation as the Vikings are, as they’re in second place and still chasing the 49ers, but that road division win will really help them as the season progresses. It was also a big win for them in the wildcard seeding, as they would have dropped to the six seed, behind the Vikings, if they had lost.

That Vikings-Seahawks Monday Night game in week 13 is going to be huge, obviously.

With the Rams at 5-4, their chances of overtaking both the San Fran and Seattle seems remote, especially with the way they couldn’t get untracked against the Steelers, and their overall play in general this year. Their next three games are against the Bears and Ravens at home, and then they travel to Arizona. 2-1 is very doable, which keeps them in the thick of the conversation. If they beat the Bears this weeks, Chicago is, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from playoff contention.

I think Philadelphia is currently in the best position of the 5-4 teams. They play in the shoddy NFC East, and although they got blown out by the Cowboys back in week seven and still have games against New England and Seattle, the rest of their schedule is against Miami, the Giants twice, Washington, and a home game against Dallas. 10-6 seems very doable, and if they beat Dallas in the rematch they’ll probably win the division. If it comes down to wildcard tiebreakers, though, the Vikings hold the head to head edge against Philadelphia, as they handled them 38-20 earlier this year.

Carolina is in the worst shape of 5-4 teams in the playoff hunt. They let a winnable game slip through their hands at Green Bay, and they still have a daunting schedule. They still have to play the Saints twice, Seattle, and travel to Indy. They can really flip the script, jump into the mix of the playoff talk, and throw the homefield advantage race up in the air if they can beat the Saints twice, though.

The bottom line in all of this is that if the Vikings continue to take care of business, they’ll be in. Oh, and gird your loins, as this is now a weekly thing until the end of the year, whether you like it or not.