Forget Finishing First, The Vikings’ Priority Now Shifts to Finishing Second

Vikings Set a Mind
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O Connell talks to some of his players on a play stoppage during the first quarter of a game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

For a time, there was optimism that the Minnesota Vikings could end the season with the #1 seed in the NFC. Yesterday’s outcomes make that dream precisely that: a dream. The chances of Minnesota getting to the top spot are remarkably low, so the Vikings’ priority needs to rest in finishing second.

Philadelphia did what they needed to do on Sunday. Miles Sanders put together 144 rushing yards and a pair of TDs to help lead his squad to a 48-22 win over the Giants. At 12-1, Philadelphia is the clear-cut top team in the NFC.

Minnesota, in contrast, failed to take care of business. Detroit climbed to 6-7 following their 34-23 victory.

Take a look at Josh Frey’s assessment of the situation over at PurplePTSD: “Seeing as the 12-1 Eagles defeated the 10-3 Vikings in Week 2, they hold what is essentially a three-game lead over Minnesota. The Vikings would have to win out, and the Eagles would have to lose three of their final four games against the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and New York Giants.”

Frey provides a succinct, fair assessment of where things stand at the moment.

As a result, the Vikings’ focus needs to shift toward finishing second. Why is it so important?

The importance rests in having home-field advantage in the postseason’s second round. Of course, getting to the Divisional Round is no sure thing. The defense played very poorly yesterday. Repeating that kind of effort in the playoffs will likely result in a loss in the Wild Card round. After all, the Lions now have a decent chance of making it into the postseason as a wild card team. Safe to say there’d be some nerves about facing Detroit in the opening round of the playoffs.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Minnesota not only gets into the postseason but also snags Kevin O’Connell’s first-ever playoff win. That’d mean they have the benefit of sticking around U.S. Bank Stadium for whoever makes it into the Divisional Round. Forced to guess, I’d say that’s the 49ers, a team that now stands at 9-4 after their dominant effort against the Bucs.

The chances are high that MN and SF will be the NFC’s #2 and #3 team. We just need to see which team fits into which slot.

Ask yourself: how confident are you in Minnesota being able to beat San Francisco in San Francisco? Personally, I think the 49ers are the better team right now even with Brock Purdy under center. Pulling off the win on the road would be a tough ask.

The Vikings are 10-3. The Vikings are a good team. The Vikings still need any advantage they can get in the playoffs.

Next up is Jeff Saturday’s Indianapolis Colts. Currently, Indy has the 31st offense in the NFL, averaging a mere 16.1 points per game. Ed Donatell’s defense should (a major emphasis on “should“) be able to bounce back. Snagging the win would secure the North and, very likely, at least the #3 spot in the NFC.

Getting to #2, though, is urgent. Securing home-field for the Divisional Round could be the difference between having another shot in an NFC Championship game or heading home early.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.