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NFC Playoff Picture: Vikings no longer in, but there is some hope

If you actually want them to win, that is

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Week 16 in the National Football League is officially in the books, and with only two weeks remaining in the 2023 regular season our Minnesota Vikings no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race. Not only do they no longer have a chance to win the NFC North, but they now don’t even have a Wild Card spot, so they’ll need to win and get help if they want to punch their ticket to the postseason party.

Now, I can understand people wanting the Vikings to lose or whatever the case may be. I don’t like it, but I understand it, and anyone that’s followed this site for any length of time knows that. Losing games for draft position doesn’t guarantee anything because a front office can hit on any pick or screw up any pick. So, honestly, I can’t bring myself to cheer for this team to lose.

With that out of the way, here’s the NFC playoff picture as we head into the final two weeks of the season.

1) San Francisco 49ers (11-4, NFC West champs, ahead of Philadelphia based on conference record)

The Niners got beaten pretty soundly on Monday night by Baltimore, but they still have the inside track to the #1 seed. They have what should be a “get right” game in Washington this coming Sunday, but the big way that this impacts Vikings fans is that now their Week 18 game against the Rams is going to have some meaning. . .the Niners will still be fighting for the #1 seed while the Rams will be looking to secure a playoff spot. Since the Rams are one of the teams that’s in the Vikings’ way of getting back into the playoff picture, that’s a positive for Vikings fans.

Remaining schedule: at Washington, vs Los Angeles

2) Philadelphia Eagles (11-4, secured playoff spot, ahead of Detroit based on strength of victory tiebreaker)

The Eagles almost stumbled their way into a fourth straight loss on Monday, but managed to do just enough to hold off the Giants. They’re still fighting with Dallas for the NFC East title, and their schedule is markedly easier than Dallas’ schedule is over the last two weeks, but something about the Eagles just isn’t right lately. Jalen Hurts is turning the ball over a lot more than he has in the past and Philadelphia is running out of time to get it right before the playoffs.

Remaining schedule: vs Arizona, at New York

3) Detroit Lions (11-4, NFC North champions)

The Lions probably should have blown the Vikings out on Sunday, given that the Vikings turned the ball over on about half of their possessions, but they had to hold on at the last minute. That’s still enough to get them a division title and potentially put them in play for the #1 seed. Will the Week 18 game in Detroit mean anything? Hopefully it will.

Remaining schedule: at Dallas, vs Minnesota

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7, NFC South leaders)

The Bucs have put themselves in a position to win the NFC South. All they need to do is win one of their final two games and they’ll secure a home playoff game against whoever finishes in the runner up spot in the NFC East. At least there’s a chance the NFC South champ will have a winning record this year, which is nice.

Remaining schedule: vs New Orleans, at Carolina

5) Dallas Cowboys (10-5, secured playoff spot)

The Cowboys hurt their chances at the NFC East title with their loss to Miami this weekend, but they’re already in the playoffs and, honestly, might be better off getting a Wild Card spot and a trip to Tampa Bay or New Orleans than securing a division title. That sounds weird to say, I know, but given the potential matchups it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Cowboys to finish behind the Eagles.

Remaining schedule: vs Detroit, at Washington

6) Los Angeles Rams (8-7, NFC West second place, ahead of Seattle based on head-to-head sweep)

The Rams are on a roll, having won five of their last six. Matthew Stafford has their offense clicking in a big way, and while their defense is a bit suspect, they’re doing enough on offense where it might not matter. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, they’re going to have to face a San Francisco team that’s actually playing for something at Levi’s Stadium in Week 18, and if the Vikings can handle their business on Sunday night, that could be beneficial to them.

Remaining schedule: at New York, at San Francisco

7) Seattle Seahawks (8-7, NFC West third place)

The Seahawks got another last-minute win on Sunday as they got past Tennessee to keep themselves in the playoff picture. Their last two games don’t exactly look like killers or anything, but the Seahawks have been playing things awfully close to the vest over the past few weeks and that could potentially come back to bite them. Will it? Probably not, but who knows for sure, am I right?

Remaining schedule: Pittsburgh, at Arizona

Outside looking in

8) Minnesota Vikings (7-8, NFC North second place, ahead of Green Bay and Atlanta based on head-to-head victory)

So, as we’ve already mentioned, the Vikings need to win and get help from either the Rams or the Seahawks to get themselves into the playoffs. First thing’s first, as they obviously need to beat Green Bay on Sunday night in what’s, essentially, an elimination game for those two teams. Then they need to figure out a way to beat Detroit next week. . .not turning the ball over four times would be a good start. . .and then keep their fingers crossed. Stranger things have happened before, but as we know those strange things generally happen to Minnesota, not for them.

Remaining schedule: vs Green Bay, at Detroit

9) Atlanta Falcons (7-8, NFC South second place, ahead of Green Bay and New Orleans based on head-to-head victory)

10) Green Bay Packers (7-8, NFC North third place, ahead of New Orleans based on head-to-head victory)

11) New Orleans Saints (7-8, NFC South third place)

12) Chicago Bears (6-9, NFC North fourth place)

13) New York Giants (5-10, NFC East third place, eliminated from playoff contention)

14) Washington Commanders (4-11, NFC East fourth place, eliminated from playoff contention)

15) Arizona Cardinals (3-12, NFC West fourth place, eliminated from playoff contention)

16) Carolina Panthers (2-13, NFC South fourth place, eliminated from playoff contention)

That’s the entire NFC playoff picture heading into Week 17, folks. The purple have a bit of hope, but it’s faint at this point and getting fainter.