Sunday began with the Minnesota Vikings winning their eighth consecutive game – and the third in a row against playoff contending teams. Still with Case Keenum at quarterback, the Vikings have conquered the 9-3 Los Angeles Rams 24-7; the 6-6 Detroit Lions in Detroit 30-23; and now the 7-5 Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta 14-9. It has been a stunning performance to say the least.
Left for the Vikings is another difficult road game in Carolina, and a Week 16 matchup in Green Bay against a Packer team that might or might not have Aaron Rodgers back. The other two games will be home games against Cincinnati and Chicago.
With Seattle pulling off a season-saving 24-10 win over the previously untouchable Philadelphia Eagles, Week 13 scrambled the NFC picture a bit. If the playoffs began today, it would be the Vikings going in as the NFC’s top seeded team (based on strength of victory over the Eagles).
If the Vikings stub their toe either in Carolina or in Green Bay, they would probably yield the top seed to New Orleans whose strength of victory (if they win out) would eclipse Minnesota’s. Either way, the Vikings are in excellent position to finish with the first or second seed in the conference.
The Eagle’s loss pulls them back into the scrum with a tough road game coming up in Los Angeles against the Rams. LA’s loss to Minnesota would really sting in this situation, since it would give the Vikings the head-to-head tie breaker, and would also toss them a game behind the other teams in conference record. Philadelphia and LA are currently second and third in the conference. They could easily slide to third and fourth.
The Seahawks’ upset win and the Falcons’ upset loss could very send the Falcons’ playoff position to Seattle. That’s how things currently sit. Both face daunting finishes to the regular season. The Falcons’ last four games include two against New Orleans and one against Carolina. The Seahawks’ last four include Jacksonville, the Rams and Dallas. This last NFC playoff spot could shift back and forth several more times before the season ends.
Re-Thinking the Last AFC Spot
Last week, I think I read too much into Buffalo’s win over Kansas City. It seemed big at the time – the win that they needed to get their hands on that last playoff spot. But as I watched them fold meekly against the Patriots last week – and as I watched Miami show a significant pulse against Denver, I am increasingly doubtful that the Bills can go into Miami on the last day of the season and beat the Dolphins – which will make it very unlikely that they will make the playoffs. Increasingly it looks like the Tennessee Titans (a team I still don’t have great confidence in) will slip into the playoffs – probably as the fifth seed, as they have an earlier victory over Baltimore.
At this point, Tennessee in the playoffs is the most likely scenario – but I still don’t expect them to hang around long.