UPDATE: With the 49ers defeating the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, they’re now the #3 seed in the NFC playoff picture with the Seahawks moving down to #7. Everything else from the original post below still stands.
Yes, we know that the Minnesota Vikings suffered a pretty awful loss against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. However, it’s now time to pump the brakes a bit and take a look at the position the Vikings find themselves in. . .which, all things considered, is a pretty good one.
Since we’re over the halfway point of the season, the playoff picture is starting to come into focus a bit, so we’re going to start paying attention to it. Here’s how things look as we stand right now.
#1 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (9-1, NFC East leader)
The Vikings almost got a bit of a boost in the early window on Sunday from the Indianapolis Colts, who had the Eagles on the ropes. However, the Colts couldn’t hold on and Philadelphia escaped with a victory. That means that, after a week of being tied in terms of win-loss record, the Vikings are back to being two games behind the Eagles for the #1 seed in the NFC since the Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Next opponent: vs Green Bay, Sunday (man, can’t they both lose?)
#2 seed - Minnesota Vikings (8-2, NFC North leader)
However ugly the Vikings’ loss on Sunday was, they’re still at least four games clear of every other team in the NFC North (and essentially five games, since they hold head-to-head tiebreakers over all of them). They’re also at least two games clear of the other two division leaders for the #2 seed in the NFC. This team would have to really, really screw up to not make the postseason. I mean, they’ve done it before, but this would have to be even worse. They have things they need to fix, but they’re still in a pretty solid position.
Next opponent: vs New England, Thursday
#3 seed - Seattle Seahawks (6-4, NFC West leader)
Talk about a team that nobody had in this spot before the season. The Seahawks were thought to be in a total rebuild year, but the Geno Smith renaissance has put them at the top of the NFC West through their first ten games. Their division is still pretty tightly bunched. . .San Francisco will move into this spot if they win on Monday Night Football. . .but there’s still plenty of football left to be played.
Next opponent: vs Las Vegas, Sunday
#4 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5, NFC South leader)
The NFC South has been a total dumpster fire this season, but the Buccaneers find themselves as the. . .I don’t know, least-burned team in the dumpster, I guess. Yes, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, but he hasn’t looked like himself this year. Whoever emerges from the NFC South mess will have earned their spot, but if they want to be something other than the 4-seed, they’ll have some work to do.
Next opponent: at Cleveland, Sunday
#5 seed - Dallas Cowboys (7-3, NFC East #2)
Nobody is denying that the Cowboys are a talented team, but unless the Eagles stumble significantly. . .and they’ve already lost to the Eagles once. . .the rest of the NFC East is gunning for wild card position. It’s possible that the entire NFC East makes the playoffs, which would just be wild. I know nobody trusts Mike McCarthy in the postseason, but if he can get the Cowboys into position, maybe he can do some damage.
Next opponent: vs New York Giants, Thursday
#6 seed - New York Giants (7-3, NFC East #3)
The Giants are behind the Cowboys due to head-to-head tiebreakers. . .the Cowboys beat the Giants back in Week 3. Another of the league’s most surprising teams, the Giants have been overlooked a bit. Again, the non-Philadelphia teams in the NFC East are looking at Wild Card spots, but the Giants have a chance to shake things up on Thanksgiving.
Next opponent: at Dallas, Thursday
#7 seed - San Francisco 49ers (5-4, NFC West #2)
The Niners are a team that pretty much nobody wants to see in the postseason. . .but if the playoffs started today, that’s who the Vikings would face. People throw a lot of junk at Jimmy Garoppolo, but the guy gets it done when he needs to. The Niners have already beaten Seattle once this season so if they win on Monday Night they’ll jump into the #3 spot in the NFC and drop Seattle to this position. If they lose, the Washington Commanders will move into this space.
Next opponents: “at” Arizona in Mexico City (Monday night), vs New Orleans, Sunday
Outside looking in
#8 - Washington Commanders (6-5, NFC East #4)
#9 - Atlanta Falcons (5-6, NFC South #2)
#10 - Detroit Lions (4-6, NFC North #2)
#11 - Arizona Cardinals (4-6, NFC West #3, behind Detroit on conference record tiebreaker)
#12 - Green Bay Packers (4-7, NFC North #3)
#13 - New Orleans Saints (4-7, NFC South #3, behind Green Bay on strength of victory tiebreaker)
#14 - Los Angeles Rams (3-7, NFC West #4)
#15 - Carolina Panthers (3-8, NFC South #4)
#16 - Chicago Bears (3-8, NFC North #4)
That’s your updated NFC playoff picture, ladies and gentlemen. Relax and breathe a little bit. . .the Vikings are going to be fine.