Vikings 1st-Round Playoff Foe Comes into Focus

Thanks to gridiron futility and tomfoolery Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings lost grip of the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed. Unless one believes the San Francisco 49ers — a team that can still seize the No. 1 seed and has that to play for — will lose in Week 18 against the embarrassing Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings are stuck in the three-seed.

Of course, nobody in the Vikings orbit, aside from perhaps players and coaches, believed the team would win the NFC North and snatch the No. 3 seed in 2022. The Vikings are overachievers in that regard, carried to an NFC North title for the first time since 2017 thanks to new head coach Kevin O’Connell.

Vikings 1st-Round Playoff Foe Comes into Focus

But because Green Bay shellacked Minnesota and the 49ers survived the scrappy Las Vegas Raiders in overtime on Sunday, the Vikings 1st-Round playoff opponent has come into focus.

And that’s the New York Giants.

In theory, Minnesota could topple the Chicago Bears this weekend while the 49ers mind-bogglingly lost to the Cardinals, resulting in a takeback of the No. 2 seed. Yet, let’s face it. That isn’t likely and teeters on lunacy.

Playoff Foe Comes into Focus
Oct 2, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears with running back Saquon Barkley. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports.

Ergo, Minnesota is staring down the barrel of the blitz-happy sons of guns known as the Giants — a team the Vikings vanquished in Week 16 courtesy of Greg Joseph’s franchise-record-setting field goal that walked off New York. Barring kooky events this weekend, Minnesota has a rematch on the menu in Round 1 of the January tournament with Brian Daboll’s team.

Is that good or bad news? The answer is in the eye of the beholder. The Vikings absolutely refuse to play an “entire game,” beating nearly every opponent via suspense-thriller that makes The Fugitive from 1993 jealous. Minnesota needed every ounce of heroism in Week 16 to downsize the Giants, so it’s not like the Vikings “have the Giants number.”

12 Snap Reactions after Giants at Vikings
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (97) tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Still, thanks to the 49ers triumph over the Raiders, the Vikings will avoid the Packers in the 1st Round of the playoffs, as Green Bay “only” needs a home win over the Detroit Lions for postseason admission. Had the 49ers lost to the Raiders, a Vikings-Packers rematch at U.S. Bank Stadium was heading toward fruition. But no cigar, as the Vikings likely won’t play the cheese team that eviscerated them in Week 17.

There is precedent for Minnesota playing a team in the postseason that it already saw in the regular season. Naturally, the precedent isn’t peachy. The Vikings are 9-12 (.428) in franchise playoff history when facing a team they already played in the regular season. But for context, very few Vikings “playoff numbers” are any good — hence the franchise owning the distinction of the NFL’s fifth-best team per win percentage in the Super Bowl era but no Super Bowl trophies.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) tackles New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

So, the history isn’t good, and the Vikings will likely host the Giants twice in three weeks. The Vikings could still play the Packers, Lions, or Seahawks if Week 18 gets wonky, but it’s best to circle the Giants as the probable enemy.

A Vikings loss to the Bears or a win by the 49ers this weekend secures the Vikings-Giants rematch.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).