Path to the Playoffs: Week 12 Edition

The Vikings have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

Let that sink in for a second. Breath it in through your mouth and exhale it through your nose. Savor that statement because if you would have told any analyst that the Vikings would even come close to having a spot along 11 other teams in the playoffs, well… they would have laughed at you. They would have laughed at me. (I predicted the Vikings would be in contention for a playoff spot. Not right about many things, but I was right about that.)

Not many “experts” gave the Vikings a shot before the 2012 season started. The idea was that the Vikings are a rebuilding team with a star player just had his knee rebuilt and a young quarterback in the toughest division in football. These “experts” predicted the Vikings would find themselves in the cellar of the NFC North another year. Many of these “experts” still believe the Vikings have no shot.

I am here to tell you that they most definitely have a shot at the playoffs.

As you all know, the Vikings have a difficult task ahead of them. This year, the NFL wanted to make the month of December one to remember when it created its schedule. The Vikings have four division games in the next six weeks. This gives them the unique opportunity to be, as cliché as it sounds, in complete control of their own destiny. Win those remaining divisional games and they are almost definitely in the playoffs.

This is unlikely. While it would be sensational, the odds of the Vikings beating the Bears and the Packers twice each is somewhat unrealistic. I’m not saying it can’t happen… But let’s just say it would behoove us to look at the other ways the Vikings could make the playoffs.

We’re still six weeks out which means there is a lot that can happen. But it doesn’t hurt to know who we should root for and against every week to give us the best shot at the big game. So, what I would like to do each week until we either have clinched a spot or have been definitely eliminated is look at the playoff picture as it stands and go through game by game in the NFL and establish who we (Vikings fans) want to win.

First, the current NFC playoff picture:

Playoff Picture

  1. Atlanta Falcons (9-1)
  2. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1)
  3. Green Bay Packers (7-3)
  4. New York Giants (6-4)
  5. Chicago Bears (7-3) Wildcard
  6. Seattle Seahawks (6-4) Wildcard

What We Want: Week 12

Green Bay at NY GiantsGiants win. (Obviously…)

As if you didn’t naturally already, we most definitely want the Packers to lose this weekend against the defending champions. If the Packers lose to the Giants Sunday night and the Vikings beat the Bears the Vikings will lead the NFC North with the #1 spot. Forget turkey, this is all I want for Thanksgiving.

Houston at DetroitHouston win.

As the Lions are not completely out of the playoff picture and the Texans are not in the NFC, it’d benefit the Vikings if the Lions lost this week.

Washington at DallasWashington win.

This is a tough one because while the Cowboys currently are one game ahead of the Redskins and as such are a more immediate contender for a wildcard spot, the Redskins have the tiebreaker over us and we don’t play the Cowboys. Still, the odds that the Redskins rebound from their 4-6 losing record and really make a push isn’t incredibly likely. I’ll be rooting for the Cowboys to lose so they essentially will be removed from the playoff hunt.

Seattle at MiamiMiami win.

The Seahawks will likely be one of our biggest sources of competition for a playoff spot – especially since they would hold a tiebreaker over us. Go Dolphins!

Atlanta at Tampa Bay: Atlanta win.

The Falcons at 9-1 will almost definitely win their division so we don’t really need to worry about them moving forward.  The Buccaneers on the other hand will likely be vying for our wildcard spot. Like the Seahawks, since we’ve lost to the Bucs this season and they would hold a tiebreaker, it’s much better if they just lose. I’ll be rooting for a Matt Ryan rebound this weekend.

St. Louis at ArizonaSt. Louis win.

Realistically, the Rams are no longer in the playoff hunt. The Cardinals, at 4-6, are almost out of the picture but it wouldn’t hurt if they lost this weekend to make our lives a little easier.

San Francisco at New Orleans: San Francisco win.

The 49ers will likely win their division which would take them out of the wildcard hunt. The Saints on the other hand are rebounding fiercely and are right behind us at #9 in the divisional standings challenging us for a wildcard spot. Let’s go Niners.

Carolina at PhiladelphiaCarolina win.

This game really doesn’t have any playoff implications for us as both teams are [almost] definitely out of the picture. But, Philly has the better record (by a game) so let’s pull for the Panthers here.

So, let’s recap. We want the Giants, Texans, Redskins, Dolphins, Falcons, Rams, 49ers and Panthers to win. Or, if you are a glass half-empty type of person, we want the Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Saints and Eagles to lose.

I’ll be back next week with an updated playoff picture and who our favorite teams should be in Week 13. If I’ve made a mistake (likely) above or you have a different opinion on who we should be cheering for this week, make it known in the comments.

Ultimately though, let’s root for the most important game this weekend… Let’s beat the Bears on Sunday.