Is #1 Seed Still in Play for Vikings?

nears on chandler
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Saturday’s afternoon action saw Dallas host Philadelphia and San Francisco host Washington. All four teams are currently in playoff position, and both of these matchups may very well be playoff previews.

So, what happened in these games, and what do the results mean for Minnesota?

Is #1 Seed Still in Play for Vikings?

San Francisco vs. Washington

still in play for vikings
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

In a game featuring a matchup between Brock Purdy and Taylor Heinicke, this was less about the QBs on the field and more about overall talent and coaching. In San Francisco’s case, that proved very advantageous, as they possess one of the best rosters in the NFL, combined with the scheming genius Kyle Shanahan.

San Francisco had little trouble in this one, rolling Washington en route to a 37-20 victory. Kittle was incredible for San Francisco, notching 6 catches for 120 yards and 2 scores, his second game with at least 2 touchdowns and 90 receiving yards in as many weeks.

Also, Washington benched Heinicke and went back to Wentz, who led a late touchdown drive and finished 12/16 for 123 yards and a touchdown. It’s up in the air who the Commanders will stick with at QB going forward, especially since Heinicke was not particularly bad until a late interception.

San Francisco moved to 11-4 and stayed a step behind Minnesota in the battle for the #2 seed, while Washington dropped down to 7-7-1, now losers of two straight. The good news for Washington is that Detroit also lost, leaving them in playoff position over the Lions and the Seattle Seahawks.

Takeaways for Minnesota

1 Vikings Player Certainly Won over the Masses
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

This game was a classic case of a great team hosting a mediocre team and a great team taking care of business. San Francisco showed why they should be respected in this NFC, while the Commanders don’t scare anyone –- if they even make the playoffs, that is. 

Washington is a possible first-round matchup for Minnesota, while the 49ers are an incredibly likely second-round foe should Minnesota advance past the Wild Card round. This game really highlighted the difference in play that Minnesota will need for a Wildcard Round victory compared to that same victory but in the Divisional Round.

Against this San Francisco team, if Minnesota wants to have a chance, they will need to make rookie QB sensation Purdy as uncomfortable as possible while also tackling well and minimizing the 49er’s offensive lifeblood — yards after catch. On offense, they’ll need to protect Kirk Cousins a lot better than they have been recently, and Cousins will need to be at his best. He can’t throw interceptable balls as he did against the Giants on Saturday.

Dallas vs. Philadelphia

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

In this matchup between NFC East heavyweights, the biggest question coming into the game was what would Philadelphia’s offense look like with Gardner Minshew in place of the injured MVP candidate Jalen Hurts and how effective that new-look offense would be.

Well, those questions were answered quite satisfactorily for Philadelphia fans, but in a less satisfactory turn, the Eagles defense has appeared to take on the constitution of swiss cheese. 

This game was an old-fashioned shootout, with both teams relying significantly more on their offensive performance than any type of defensive stand. Dak Prescott and Ceedee Lamb were electric for the Cowboys, while on the other side Gardner Minshew and Devonta Smith moved the ball against a Cowboys defense that has been looking ever more suspect in recent weeks. In the end, the Cowboys capitalized on several late turnovers and a clutch defensive stop at the end of the game en route to a 40-34 victory in what ended up being a Christmas Eve classic.

This game didn’t mean much for either team besides bragging rights, as Philadelphia just needs to win or tie once or have Minnesota and Dallas both lose or tie a game. So Minnesota can snag the #1 seed, but it’s an extreme longshot, especially given how we saw this Eagles team play today.

As for the Cowboys, they are still technically alive for the division, but it’s an incredibly long shot, and if they aren’t able to grab the division title, the Cowboys are virtually locked into the #4 seed.

Assuming favorites win every game in the Wildcard Round, Philadelphia will host Dallas in a rematch of this entertaining shootout. Whether Hurts or Minshew starts for Philadelphia, that will be a great game.

Takeaways for Minnesota

works just fine
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

This game was terrifying to watch as a Minnesota Vikings fan. Both of these teams possess the QBs and WRs necessary to absolutely shred Minnesota through the air and the types of rushing attacks to bully them on the ground. If Minnesota wants to have any chance in the playoffs against either of these teams, the recipe is to win a shootout on the back of an awesome performance by the aforementioned Cousins, Justin Jefferson, TJ Hockenson, and the rest of the Vikings very talented offense.

The issue for Minnesota is they already played both of these teams, and coincidentally they had by far their two worst offensive performances of the year. Not to sound like the grinch this close to Christmas, but walking into Philadelphia or hosting Dallas could be a recipe for a playoff disaster for this Vikings team. They can likely expect to be heavy underdogs if that situation occurs.