The Vikings haven't changed their defensive scheme or their assignments, but they have changed their…
Vikings still in NFC playoff picture
At the unofficial midway point of the season, it would seem to just about any outside observer that the field in the NFC playoffs are all but set.
If the playoffs started today, the Vikings would be in. That's what makes the loss to Tampa Bay so damaging to their hopes. At 6-2, the Vikes would be close to having their postseason ticket punched. At 5-3, things are markedly worse, yet far from grievous.
The NFC is playing itself out that, barring a significant change, only two wild card spots are up for grabs in the conference playoff race. In the NFC East, the Giants have rule of the roost at 6-2. Nobody else is above .500 – the Cowboys and Eagles are at 3-4 and the Redskins are 3-5.
In the NFC South, the Buccaneers are an improbable (and likely to suck out) 3-4. The Saints are 2-5 and Cam Newton continues to look good at press conferences while talking about yet another loss at 1-6. Stick a fork in the Panthers. It's all about the draft now.
In the NFC West, the 49ers, who got taken to school by the Vikings, but are riding high with a record of 6-2. The Cardinals are at 4-4, but are riding a four-game losing streak. The Seahawks are 4-4, but the real refs won't give them a gift like the faux refs did. The Rams are 3-5 for a reason.
A realistic look at the NFC playoff picture screams one simple fact – barring a significant dropoff, the NFC North will provide three of the six NFC playoff teams. If Dallas loses at Atlanta next Sunday night, the Cowboys' matchup at Philadelphia the following week will likely be an elimination game. The Eagles at New Orleans and vs. Dallas will likely take care of that. If the Redskins can split their remaining games with the Cowboys and Eagles, all of them will have egg on their face – and the Eagles will fire Andy Reid and Jerry Jones will consider firing his general manager. Oh, wait. Jerruh is the G.M. Scratch that … and scratch the playoffs.
One would figure that Drew Brees would offer up cash for the defense to be not quite so generous. They set an NFL record by allowing 400-plus yards in seven straight games – apparently no additional compensation for kill shots has impacted the Saints defense (known as the Really Big Easy by opposing offenses) – and seeing the Falcons twice, as well as the Eagles, Niners, Giants and Cowboys will make their playoff run a minefield that won't be navigated without losing a leg or two.
As Vikings fans still lick their collective wounds and wonder what could have been with a 6-2 record, they're learning to settle for 5-3. Given the current state of the NFC, 9-7 makes the playoffs. The only remaining question is who will that team be? At the current pace, odds are that both wild cards will come from the NFC North.
A win Sunday against the Seahawks would go a long way into cementing the Vikings' place in that conversation.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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