Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Saints lose shocker; Vikings could get No. 1 seed

Posted by: under Vikings, NFC, Packers, Vikings off the field Updated: December 27, 2009 - 3:34 PM

Wow.

What else is there to say. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who entered Sunday with a 2-12 record, handed New Orleans a 20-17 overtime loss Sunday, meaning the Saints (13-2) still haven't locked up the top seed in the NFC.

This presents a golden opportunity for the Vikings, who are 11-3 but have lost two of their past three. If the Vikings win on Monday night at Chicago and in Week 17 against the Giants at the Metrodome, they will have a chance to bypass New Orleans to get home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The key for the Vikings would be that the Saints lose a third consecutive game in their regular-season finale next Sunday against the suddenly hot Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.

The Vikings hold the tiebreaker over the Saints, so if both finish with 13-3 records the Vikings would jump the Saints into that top spot. 

However, as much as the Saints feel the Vikings breathing down their necks, the Vikings also feel the Eagles gaining on them. Philadelphia is playing host to Denver on Sunday in a late-afternoon start and would pull within a half-game of the Vikings with a victory. The Eagles hold the tie-breaker on the Vikings so Minnesota needs to have a better record than the Eagles to get a higher seed. (The first tie-breaker is head-to-head -- the Vikings have not played the Saints or Eagles this season -- and the second tie-breaker is record in conference games. The third tie-breaker is best record in common games with a minimum of four.)

The Packers, by the way, have clinched a wild-card spot with their 48-10 victory over Seattle and the Giants embarrassing 41-9 loss to Carolina. Looking at things through the early games, five of the six playoff teams for the NFC have now been set. The Vikings (NFC North), New Orleans (NFC South) and Arizona (NFC West) are division winners. Philadelphia and Green Bay have wild card spots and the Eagles could still win the NFC East.

 

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