By Anthony Brousseau
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Vikings have already clinched the NFC North, but they still have plenty to play for this weekend against the Chicago Bears.
Though the No. 1 seed – and home field advantage — is out of reach thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles’ win over the Oakland Raiders on Christmas night, the Vikings can still earn a first round bye this weekend.
A complicated web of scenarios emerges when you look at this weekend’s playoff implications, so let’s break them down as simply as we can. Here’s how the Vikings can earn a bye this weekend.
If the Vikings beat or tie the Bears…
They earn the No. 2 seed and a first round bye. It’s as simple as that. The Vikings control their own destiny, and a win against the 5-10 Bears at home is all that stands between them and a week off.
If the Vikings lose to the Bears…
They still have a good shot at earning the No. 2 seed. A lot would have to go wrong for the Vikings to fall to the third seed. But since this is the Vikings we’re talking about…
If the Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams all lose, and the Carolina Panthers win, the Vikings fall to the third seed. The reason? The Vikings and Panthers would be tied at 12-4, and the Panthers win the tiebreaker thanks to their 31-24 victory over the Vikings in Week 14.
A Saints tie is also an ill portent for the Vikings. If New Orleans’ game against Tampa Bay ends in a deadlock, the Panthers can leapfrog the Vikings with a win over the Atlanta Falcons and a Rams loss or tie.
Note: there has not been a single tie in the NFL this year. But again, we’re talking about the Vikings here.
Essentially, if the Bears beat the Vikings, the boys in purple will be watching the Saints and Panthers closely. A Saints win gives the Vikings a bye, as does a Panthers loss or tie.
With a loss to the Bears, it all boils down to this: If the Vikings end up in any sort of three-way tie, they’re the No. 2 seed. If they end up tied only with the Panthers, they’re the No. 3 seed.
The Vikings play at noon, while the Saints-Buccaneers game and Panthers-Falcons games are both at 3:25. Hopefully, the Vikings will have clinched the No. 2 seed by that time. But if not, it will be a tense afternoon for Vikings fans.