By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings have plenty to play for the rest of the season. It was expected to be playing for next season and beyond, but the purple are tied for the final playoff spot and are just a game and a half behind the division leaders.
The schedule does not favor the Vikings with five of its remaining six games against teams that could be the first or second seed in their respective conferences.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons host the Arizona Cardinals Sunday at noon at the Georgia Dome. The Vikings are not going to catch the Falcons. It really doesn’t matter who the Vikings’ fans root for in this game. It is a game to root for Fantasy Football players and not a team.
Chicago Bears: The Bears travel to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings are chasing the Bears for NFC North title. If the Bears lose this game and next week’s, the Vikings will have identical 7-4 records. The Vikings would own the head-to-head tie-breaker.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers host a banged up Bears squad that will not have quarterback Jay Cutler. The Vikings already own the head-to-head tie-breaker with the 49ers because of its win in Week 3 at Mall of America Field.
New York Giants: The Giants have a bye this Sunday. The Vikings and Giants hold identical 6-4 records. The Vikings have the tie-breaker over the Giants in strength of schedule and strength of victory percentages, but lose the inter-conference record tie-breaker.
Green Bay Packers: The Packers travel to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions. The Vikings trail the Packers by a half game. Paul Allen of KFAN radio tweeted earlier this week that if the Packers beat the Lions and lose to the Giants next week and the Bears lose to the 49ers and Vikings, the Vikings will be first place in the division. Despite that, it will be hard for Vikings fans to root for the Packers when a Green Bay loss drops them into a tie with Minnesota.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have a bye this Sunday. It is in a tie with the Vikings for the final wild card spot, but hold the head-to-head tie-breaker because of their win at CenturyLink Field in Week 9.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers travel to Bank of America Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers. The Buccaneers are a half game behind the Vikings while holding the head-to-head tie-breaker over Minnesota. Vikings fans should pay close attention to the Seahawks and Buccaneers the rest of the season.
New Orleans Saints: The surging Saints travel to the O.co Coliseum to take on the Oakland Raiders. The Saints are just a game and a half behind the Vikings. The Saints remain in the playoff hunt, but another loss or two will make it really difficult to make the postseason.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys host the Cleveland Browns Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys are a game and a half behind the Vikings. They are in a similar situation as the Saints, lose and it gets really difficult.
Detroit Lions: The Lions host the Packers on Sunday. The Lions have a favorable remaining schedule, but have already lost three divisional games. The Vikings hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with a two-game season sweep.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals play at the Falcons. The Vikings have a two game lead on the Cardinals plus the head-to-head tie-breaker. It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals will be a factor, win or lose.
Because there are so many divisional games remaining for everyone, the Vikings need to take care of themselves and not worry about the scoreboard.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.