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The Vikings were on a bye, yet their post season position actually improved

Divisional Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Hi kids, and welcome to Thanksgiving Week. If you’re travelling, I hope you all have a safe journey there, a great time with whoever you’re going to see, and then a safe journey home. If you’re hosting, like we do, may you all get the 10,000 tasks handed down to you from your spouse completed in time, and may someone help with the cleanup.

The Vikings had a very productive week on the field for not playing a football game. The games that were played broke about as well can be expected, and the Vikings now have a much improved shot at winning the division and possibly getting a first round bye. As always, I’m using the 538 NFL Playoff predictions page for all the percentages, and Playoff Predictors Dot Com for seeding. When the Vikes walked off the field after beating Denver, this is where things stood:

With everything but the Rams and Ravens Monday Night game in the books, let’s see where the Vikings are in the NFC North:

It’s still a two team race in the division, but the Vikings gained a tremendous amount of ground thanks to the 49ers whipping of Green Bay, as the 37-8 blowout radically altered the status quo in the NFC North. Minnesota is now controls their own destiny and is even tied in the W-L column, they’re a very slight favorite to actually win the division, and they still have a home game with the Packers the second to the last week of the season. But that’s not something the Vikings can seriously entertain unless they beat the Seahawks. Speaking of Seattle, let’s look at the Wildcard standings:

For awhile, it looked like the Panthers might pull off a big upset of the Saints. Had that happened, New Orleans, Minnesota, and Green Bay would all be sitting at 8-3, the chances for a Vikings first round bye would have climbed another 10 percent, and things would have gotten really interesting at the top of the NFC. But the Saints won on a last second field goal, and are still in the driver’s seat for the number two seed behind San Francisco. Los Angeles is playing the Ravens tonight, and a loss all but eliminates them. They would drop two full games behind Minnesota for the six seed, giving them only a 16% chance to make the playoffs. A win, though, and they can keep pace while increasing their odds to 34%. So yeah, it’s pretty much do or die for the Rams tonight.

For Philly, it’s pretty much win the division over Dallas or not make the postseason at this point. Same thing for the Cowboys, who I didn’t put on the chart as they currently lead the NFC East and hold the four seed behind the Packers. That division is far from over, though, as no one really seems to want to take control and win the thing. The next two weeks will be telling, as the Eagles have Miami on the road and the Giants at home, while Dallas hosts Buffalo and travels to Chicago.

But back to Minnesota and Seattle. Let’s break this down and see how big things will change, win or lose. Keep in mind, this is just the result of this game in a vacuum, with no other results figured in. If the Vikings win, this is how the post season landscape is altered for the two teams:

So...how bad will a loss hurt?

In short, it would be a brutal turn of events. The division is still within reach, but the Vikings will once again need help. They’ll remain a heavy favorite to make the playoffs, but they would be staring at the six seed, which would mean consecutive road games against Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Francisco, assuming they remain the top three seeds and the 49ers win their divisional playoff game.

That’s not impossible, but it’s highly improbable. 10 wildcard teams have made the Super Bowl, six wildcard teams have won it, and of those, only four have won it all by playing three road games—the 2000 Ravens, the 2005 Steelers, the 2007 Giants, and the 2010 Packers.

So...you know...beat Seattle.