How Far Can the Vikings Go in the Playoffs?

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.

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Adam Patrick

Adam has been rooting for the Vikings ever since he saw Randall Cunningham win NFC Special Teams Player of the week in 1997. Since his career sports highlights include 3rd place at 5th Grade Golf Camp and catching a ball during a soccer game (he was not playing goalie), Adam turned to writing. He considers himself a 'Vikings Realist' as he does not shy away from criticizing the purple and gold if necessary. He will not always write about the popular topics, but his goal is to provide readers with content they cannot find anywhere else. Follow him on Twitter @Str8_Cash_Homey

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  1. One game at a time… Zim says over and over, each game is different. Who is going to be healthy and who is going to get hurt?? If we stay healthy and the defense plays like they have in their better games, we have a chance against anybody. I wish we had a better Oline for the playoffs but we are what we are.

    Let’s just beat Green Bay on Sunday, then we can talk……

  2. Although I find the thumping they received from the Pack and Seahawks in their own yard disconcerting, I still look to how tough they played the Broncos and Cardinals on the road. They just as easily could have won both of those games. So at the very least we know that they are not push overs on the road as they have been the last few years. We can all be positive with the team in pretty good shape health wise, other than Sully and Loadholt there are no significant injuries to any significant players. Sure they can be one and done, but I would think that they can give the Pack all that they can handle next week. I am not the only one noticing that the Packers offense has been floundering as of late, Cobb has been a non factor since very early in the season, Adams has had more than his share of drops, Rodgers is still very good INRE turnovers, but he has turned the ball over more than normal for him in the last half of the season. I think that it is not that great a stretch to think that they can beat the back and get at least one home game. I would think that they would love to have the Seahawks back for a rematch if they gain the 3 seed. Wilson has shown that he can be contained, their running game is not nearly what it was the first time they played, but Baldwin and Kearse are very, very dangerous receivers. Shut down Wilson, shut down the Seahawks. Providing they get that far there is no way around a return trip to AZ. Unless AZ wins and the Panthers lose, the latter being unlikely. I would rather see the Panthers as the 2 seed, I think that the Panthers are vulnerable. Their receiving corp is weaker than AZ’s, and they don’t have much of a running game outside of Cam. Nonetheless, MN has already proved they can play with the Cards. One less fumble and they likely would have beat them.. You never know Vikes fans, they could make a run. SKOL!!

    1. I don’t know as I want them to make a very deep run this year. Next year being so much more inviting. But of course you’ve got to reach for the brass ring when it’s there for the taking. I would rather we still be inder the radar at least to start next year, which won’t be the case if we make it, say to the NFC -CG, or dare I say, SB.

      1. I think “under the radar” is in our rear view mirror, Path. These things can’t be scripted, and you never know when these opportunities come along. More than one team has peaked at just the right time and gotten themselves a title in the process. I’m not necessarily predicting that for our Vikes this year, but you gotta ride the high wave when it comes in, as you never know when the next one will be there.

  3. You are correct Jake, I am getting ahead of myself. Worse case scenario is Vikes losing this weekend and Seattle winning. I can’t see the latter being likely though. If the Panthers would have won last weekend the Cards would have no chance of the 1 seed. Now they do if they win and the Panthers lose, I would have to think that AZ won’t be sitting any starters unless/until that game gets out of hand. Seattle losing is most likely scenario there. That would mean a trip to Washington if they lose, perhaps the most winnable first round scenario for MN.

  4. My, how different everyone’s perspective is from three weeks ago after the Seattle game! Lot’s of talk at that time (check the comments) about how far we still are from being competitive with any good team. Now… we think maybe we can go to the Super Bowl. Zimmer summed it up best when he said after that game, “maybe we’re not as good as we think we are”, suggesting maybe some of the team had starting listening to too much praise – “taking the cheese” – so to speak. I don’t think anyone at Winter Park is thinking about the playoff possibilities right now. They are ALL thinking Packers, and that’s all they’re thinking if they are smart. My answer to the question posed is… When you have a defense playing as well as the Vikes are right now, you have a good chance in any game.

    1. Hey B.G. I agree with both of your previous comments. I was ready to throw Teddy to the wolves after the terrible showing against GB and Seattle. I was still impressed with his calm demeanor, but he was just taking the sack instead of throwing the ball away when he should have in those two games. I was wrong, he is still learning the ropes and showed his intelligence (ability to learn from mistakes) since then. They played respectively against the formidable Cards in their own yard with one key player gone from each level of their defense. (turnovers cost them, they could have won) So, yes, perhaps I am being overly optimistic. Green Bay comes first, and I don’t think that the Vikings will be thinking of how far they can go in the playoffs until after this Sunday.For the most part, this team is very young and is likely still learning how to handle things like five game winning streaks and being full of their selves, and then getting ko’d by the struggling Packers in their own yard, the last two weeks, how to handle a game that has play off implications. I am questioning, but do respect, Path’s statement. But getting beat in the first round vs making a run in the playoffs will not have much of an impact regarding next year’s draft. Either way, they are picking after #20. Top four pick vs 10 or 12th, yes, that has happened in consecutive years after winning meaningless games late. Not so this year, they will have to do a bit more research, take a bit more care, with their first round pick. But I am only thinking of this year. Their D can be very, very good. Their o line has been at least ok at times. Not telegraphing run or pass has been more prevalent as of late, they do have the fastest four receivers over all in the league, and Rudy (and I also like Pruitt) as red zone threats. And I have not even mentioned their first ballot hall of fame RB. I think that we have reason to be guardedly optimistic for the play offs. Gut check this week, gut check each play off game. But I think it would be foolish to write them off as sure fire one and done in the playoffs. Just my opinion.

      1. guarded optimism is the hallmark of any seasoned viking fan. if you’ve had your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped into dust by the vikings, then you know what i mean. to me, this looks like a second tier team right now, one that is on an upward trajectory and a year or two away from being top tier, if we can make it that high

        we’re looking ahead here, so, of course, we’ll cheer to win every game, as sometimes a team gets hot and makes a championship run. it’d be great if that happened, but, in any case, the experience will be good for our vikes for the future no matter how far we get. players who are new to the playoffs don’t usually jump in and win a title on their first try, so i see this as part of the learning curve for this year’s young team

        1. It’s looking like we are either at the bottom of the top tier or at the top of the bottom tier. We’ve beaten all of the lower tier teams (except San Fran) and one top tier (Chiefs). I think we are solidly in the middle of the top tier. To get to elite status like the Cardinals, Panthers and Bengals, we’ll need a few more impact players. Our offense has to have more punch. Our defense is already there but a couple more players and we’ll dominate.

          But we are the Vikings and we can lose to anybody. I expect us to win our first playoff game this year but not the second. We will not get blown out by anybody for the rest of the year. Our defense is too good for that. Our offense just isn’t quite there yet to take us deep into the playoffs..