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NFC Playoff Picture: Vikings on the brink of clinching

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Sunday brought a lot of things into focus

Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Minnesota Vikings in terms of securing a playoff spot Sunday. With two divisional games left, Minnesota is all but assured of making the postseason as a wildcard. They beat the Los Angeles Chargers 39-10 while their main competition for a playoff spot, the other LA team, got housed by the Dallas Cowboys.

As for winning the NFC North, ehhhhhhhh, it’s kind of a long shot, but weird things happen in the NFL. Let’s get to it. As always, I’m using the 538 NFL Predictions website for my percentages, and Playoff Predictors Dot Com for my playoff seeding.

As is our custom, let’s kick things off by looking at the NFC North:

Two things happened with Green Bay beating the Bears yesterday. For one, it eliminated Chicago from the postseason, and most importantly, it makes it almost impossible for the Vikings to win the NFC North. For Minnesota to overtake Green Bay, the Vikings must win out, and the Packers must lose out. In week 17, the Vikings host Chicago while Green Bay travels to Detroit.

If that does happen, the Vikings will not only host a home playoff game, but they will be very much in the hunt for a first round bye. A lot of things need to break Minnesota’s way for that to happen, but in the NFL weird things happen every week. You never know.

The Rams loss to Dallas also brought a lot of clarity to the wildcard race as well, at least in terms of who the wildcard teams are going to be. Let’s take a look at where things stand there:

To clinch a playoff spot, the Vikes need to win one of their last two games, or the Rams have to lose one of their last two. Any of those two things happen and the Vikings clinch. However, if the Vikes lose out and the Rams win out, they would both be 10-6, the Rams would own the tiebreaker, and Minnesota would miss the playoffs.

For most of the playoff hunt, the Vikings have been chasing Seattle for that five seed, but after the Seahawks beat the Vikings on Monday Night Football a few weeks back, they took over the NFC West lead. Sitting at 11-3, they currently hold the top seed in the conference, with Green Bay second, New Orleans third, and Dallas fourth.

The 49ers suffered a brutal loss to the Falcons yesterday, and they finish with two very tough games, the Rams at home and then at Seattle. Near as I can tell in messing with playoff seeding predictors, if the Vikings and 49ers finish with the same record, Minnesota would pass San Francisco for the fifth seed.

Why is that a big deal?

Well, the dust has to settle, but more than likely the three seed is going to be either New Orleans or Green Bay, while the fourth seed is the NFC Least division winner. If the Vikings don’t win the division, I’d like them to start off with about as winnable a road game as you can get in the playoffs, and that would be either in Philadelphia or Dallas at this point.

But with all that said, the 49ers can still win the NFC West. And if that were to happen, it would kick Seattle back down to the five seed. And if the Seahawks lose out (Arizona and SF, both at home are their remaining games) and the Vikes can win out, Minnesota can still get the fifth seed.

Got all that?

TL; DR:

Vikings win the NFC North if they win out and Green Bay loses out. First round bye in play.

Vikings clinch a playoff spot with either a win or an LA Rams loss in one of the last two games.

They can get a fifth seed with some help.

They can miss the playoffs if they lose out and the Rams win out.