Photo courtesy of Vikings.com

At the conclusion of the Vikings 49-17 thrashing of the New York Giants on Sunday night, there was an odd feeling throughout Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. A feeling similar to that of an awkward teenage boy stepping onto the dance floor for the first time and not knowing what to do with his hands.

There was no game winning field goal, no fourth quarter comeback, or any other late game shenanigans the fans of this franchise have become accustomed to. The Vikings (10-5) defiantly beat the Giants (6-9) to clinch a berth in the upcoming NFL playoffs and simultaneously left their fans wondering how they were supposed to act after a game that left their hearts beating at a semi-normal pace.

Now that they have secured a spot in the league’s second season, there is a bit of relief amongst Minnesota’s players and coaches. However, they all know that they still have plenty of work to do if they want cause any sort of commotion in the postseason.

Unlike the AFC, all six NFC playoff slots have been filled. This Sunday”s final slate of regular season games will determine exactly who plays where and when in two weeks.

The Vikings path in the playoffs could potentially get easier depending on this weekend’s results. Then again, the NFC looks vastly different than it did as early as two weeks ago.

To try and grab ahold of any ideas relating to Minnesota’s playoff chances, one has to look at how their possible opponents have performed most recently. Looking at each team’s record in the last four weeks, the Vikings opponent will be a challenge no matter who they play.

All but one team that has qualified for this season’s NFC playoffs has won at least three of their last four games. Of course, the one team that has only won two of their last four games is the same team that calls Minnesota their home.

The top two teams in the NFC playoffs have already been decided and both are more than deserving. With a combined record of 17-1 in the last nine weeks, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals will likely stand in the way of any Super Bowl aspirations that the Vikings may have.

An almost flawless performance is what Minnesota would likely need to defeat either one of these two teams. Although, it may just be a year too soon to think that the Vikings can be an actual threat to beat the best teams in their conference.

To even get a chance at playing one of the top two seeded teams in the NFC, Minnesota must first focus on defeating their opening round opponent. After the result of their Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings will know exactly who, where, and when they will be playing the on following weekend.

Depending on the result of their game and the results of a few other games this Sunday, Minnesota could potentially play the Washington Redskins, the Seattle Seahawks, or the Packers. What matchup would lean more towards the Vikings coming out victorious in the first round of the postseason?

Since they have already lost to each Green Bay and Seattle earlier this season by an average margin of 24 points, a face off with the Redskins could present Minnesota with the most opportunity for a win. However, in order to face Washington the Vikings would have to lose in their showdown with the Packers this weekend.

Since the NFL has an out of date playoff system and 8-7 Washington is the “champion” of the NFC East division, the Redskins get to host at least one playoff game even if their record is worse than their opponent. Therefore, playing the Redskins in their home stadium (where they have won three of their last four games) may not be as easy of a matchup for the Vikings after all.

Let’s just cut to the chase though and stop playing out 57 different scenarios in our heads to try and think of each and every possible way the Vikings could succeed in the playoffs.

Is Minnesota capable of beating each of the five NFC playoff teams?

Yes, they definitely are capable. But (and that is a Kim Kardashian sized but), it would not come as a total shock either if the Vikings did not even make it past the first round.