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By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - So the Vikings still have a chance at making the playoffs huh? But really, what are their chances? "Not good," you say? You mean not good like 1 out of 100? "More like 1 out of 1,000,000" you say..."So you're telling me there's a chance??? YEAH! I read ya!"
With Sunday's 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears, the Minnesota Vikings are technically still alive in the NFC playoff hunt. With 11 teams still in the mix for the six NFC playoff spots, only one spot has been clinched (Atlanta Falcons). It may be a long shot, but the Vikings do have a chance at rectifying the season and seeing a little postseason action.
Here's how the NFC stands after Week 13:
- Atlanta Falcons (11-2) (clinched)
- San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1)
- Green Bay Packers (9-4)
- New York Giants (8-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
- Chicago Bears (8-5)
IN THE HUNT:
- Washington Redskins (7-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
- St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
With three weeks left, there are a handful of scenarios that could land Minnesota in the post season. To specifically lay out each of the scenarios would take too long and wouldn't make much sense, so let's analyze that teams that are "vulnerable" and could help pave a way into the playoffs for the Minnesota Vikings.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - @CHI, TEN, @MIN
Let's start with a familiar opponent in the Green Bay Packers. Standing at 9-4, the Packers control their own destiny with games remaining at Chicago (8-5), home against the Titans (4-9) and then at Minnesota (7-6) to close out the season. Winning two of the next three games should secure the division for the Packers but having appeared shaky of the past few weeks, nothing is guaranteed. The wheels are falling off in Chicago but they still can cause fits for a team like the Packers. Tennessee should be a win but if the season comes down to a week 17 game against the Vikings, at the Metrodome, there are no sure bets.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - @BUF, SF, STL
Currently one game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings, the Seattle Seahawks are looking at games at the Bills (5-8), home against the 49ers (9-3-1) and home against the Rams (6-6-1). They also hold the tie breaker over the Vikings after their week seven head-to-head win. While their two toughest games will be played at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, the Seahawks playoff hopes may be tied to the fate of starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The pair are in the middle of appealing four-game suspensions (which would carry over to the playoffs) for violating The League's substance abuse policy. The two tested positive for Adderall, a drug that currently lies in the gray area of the league's policy. If Seattle loses their two starting cornerbacks, their defense becomes incredibly vulnerable against the aggressive passing attacks that both Buffalo and St. Louis bring to the table. No matter how week 15 falls out, the 49ers will still have something (either the division or the number two overall seed) to play for when their week 16 matchup with the Seahawks rolls around. Seattle does control their own destiny, but their fate is still very much up in the air.
CHICAGO BEARS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - GB, @AZ, @DET
You can almost set your watch by it each and every year, and this year is no different. The Bears boom out to a quick start only to have the wheels fall off and their season fall apart as the playoffs are looming near. After starting the season 7-1, the Bears have lost four of their last five games, three coming at the hands of NFC opponents. With games against Green Bay, at Arizona and at Detroit left on the docket, the Bears have an uphill battle to officially claim the final Wild Card slot which they currently hold. Worst yet for Chicago, quarterback Jay Cutler left Sunday's game with a strained neck (whiplash) and potential concussion. It's safe to say that, given past performances, the Bears with Jay Cutler have a tough road to climb. Take Cutler out of that mix and their slim chances drop off even further. At the moment the Vikings actually hold a tie-breaker above the Bears due to division victories but that could change as the Bears have games remaining against the Lions and Packers. If I had to guess now, looking at the direction the team is heading, the Bears have already written themselves off and will continue to crumble down the stretch.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - @CLE, @PHI, DAL
Currently occupying the seventh seed in the NFC, the Redskins are sitting tight as the first team out of the playoffs. Winners of four straight, Washington seems to be trending in the right direction. That was, until rookie of the year candidate, and the Redskins most valuable player, Robert Griffin III left the team's last game with a knee injury suffered late in the fourth quarter. MRIs have since proven that there is no ligament damage done to RGIII's knee but that doesn't mean that the pain won't keep him down, or at the very least limit him. As it stands, Washington stands as owners of the league's top rushing attack. That said, much of its deception came in the form of the two-headed attack of RGIII and Alfred Morris. Kirk Cousins does not offer the same threat on the ground or through the air that RGIII brings to the table, and that could hurt them with Cleveland surging lately, Philadelphia starting to figure things out and Dallas still fighting for a playoff birth in their own respect. Washington holds the tie-breaker over the Vikings having won the head-to-head matchup in week six but their past two victories have been by a combined margin of four points. Credit RGIII and Washington for finding a way to win, but most of their games are close and they are vulnerable on pass defense. If RGIII misses time, the Redskins have an uphill battle to the post season.
DALLAS COWBOYS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - PIT, NO, @WAS
Of the teams currently sitting ahead of the Vikings, the Cowboys may cause the most problems. With an emotional victory on Sunday against the Bengals, the Cowboys have won four of their last five games, albeit not against the best of competition. That said, they have won when they've needed. They are not facing any sort of injury situations that would leave them limited but they do have a tough road ahead squaring off against a Steelers team vying for their own playoff birth, a Saints squad that is always dangerous and a division matchup in D.C. against the Redskins to close out the season. Tony Romo's late season and playoff struggles have been well chronicled so it would not be asking to much to see a meltdown that would send Jerry Jones off the deep end
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: REMAINING SCHEDULE - @STL, @HOU, GB
With one "must win" victory under their belt, the Vikings have three more on the docket already with each of their opponents still in the hunt for the playoffs.. No longer controlling their own destiny, the Vikings will need to win out and have help if they are looking to make the playoffs. Heading to St. Louis this weekend could serve as a "trap game" for the Vikings. St. Louis is not likely a playoff team just yet, but they have caused problems for good teams, especially when playing inside the confines of their home field. With win against the Redskins, the Seahawks and the 49ers, the Rams come to play. Minnesota needs to follow their game plan from the week 14 if they hope to win. Protect the ball, get on the board early, and force turnovers.
Looking ahead to Houston for an accurate scout is tough at the moment. Sitting at 11-1, the Texans could clinch the division and the number one spot with a win against Indianapolis this weekend. Under this circumstance, the Texans may opt to rest starters on offense and defense, vastly changing the outlook of the game.
If the Vikings are still in the mix by the time that Green Bay heads to the Dome on December 30th, I like their chances. Green Bay will likely have the NFC North, and their playoff birth wrapped up, making their game plan more about preparing for their playoff run than it will be about beating their border rivals in Minnesota.
Moral of the story for the Vikings is this. Win out the rest of the way and you have a chance. You'll need some help from other teams, but the kind of help you'll need could be likely given the way that teams and players are falling apart as the long NFL season wears them down both physically and mentally. There's still a chance, but you need to handle business.