EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Hours after beating Atlanta in Week 13, the Minnesota Vikings took over the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff picture with Philadelphia’s 24-10 loss in Seattle.
With identical 10-2 records, determining the tiebreaker between these two teams is a bit confusing.
The Vikings and Eagles don’t play each other this season, so there’s no head-to-head matchup to reference. They both have 8-1 records against NFC opponents, and they don’t have enough common opponents (the league requires a minimum of four) to determine who has the better record against those teams. The only teams they’ve both played are Chicago and Washington. That changes in Week 14, when Philadelphia travels to Los Angeles to face the Rams and Minnesota plays its third straight game on the road at Carolina.
For now, the tiebreaker comes down to Minnesota’s strength of victory. The win percentage of the teams the Vikings have beaten is .466, compared to the Eagles' .375.
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Vikings can maintain the outright No. 1 seed if they win out against Carolina, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Chicago. That would also give them home-field advantage in the playoffs, which adds a layer of motivation.
“For us, its huge,” Jarius Wright said. “For some teams, they don’t always play well at home, but for us with the fan base we have here and just the way we play at home, it’s huge for us to be able to stay here in the playoffs and be indoors.”
Minnesota’s last playoff appearance was in the 2015 season in the NFC wild-card game, in which the Vikings lost 10-9 to Seattle. The Vikings were the higher seed and hosted the game, but that was before the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium. On Jan. 10, 2016, the game-time temperature was minus-6 degrees at TCF Bank Stadium.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Vikings a near 90 percent chance to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. At least for this week, the Vikings have control of the NFC playoff picture. But these players aren’t tempted to look too far ahead with a month remaining in the regular season.
“Everything’s for now in the league,” Eric Kendricks said. “Everyone loves us for now. People will hate you the next day, but we’re going to keep working and take it game by game.”
Added Adam Thielen: “This is the most important time of the year. Teams that go far in the playoffs, they win games in December. We’ve talked about that a long time, and this game starts that road to being successful.”
The Vikings are 1-0 in December and would hold on to the No. 1 seed for another week if they beat Carolina on Sunday, while the NFC South race is about to heat up. New Orleans travels to Atlanta this Thursday. If the Falcons win, they could slide into a wild-card spot, but they’ll have to wait on the outcome of the Panthers' and Seahawks' games. If the Saints win, they will take another step toward a division title. However, if the 8-4 Panthers beat the Vikings, they will stay as a wild-card team and could challenge the Saints for the NFC South title. As it stands now, New Orleans is the No. 4 seed, and Carolina is the sixth seed.
Don’t forget to factor in where the Eagles fall in this equation. If they beat the Rams and the Vikings lose, they could earn back the No. 1 seed. If the Rams lose, Seattle has an opportunity to tighten the race in the NFC West.
With all these scenarios in place, the one constant of the playoff picture is change. The Vikings might not end up as the top seed four weeks from now, but they’ve done enough so far, with eight straight wins, to control their own road toward the postseason.
“That’s the best part of this situation: being able to control our own destiny,” Wright said. “So far, we’ve set ourselves up really, really good, and we just want to continue to build on what we’ve done so far.”