If the Vikings want to maintain any plausible chances of defending their NFC North championship, they’d almost assuredly have to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night.
No matter what happens at CenturyLink Field, though, the Vikings will head home in strong playoff shape.
They received a healthy share of assistance from the rest of the NFC for the second straight week on Sunday, when the three teams directly behind them in the NFC wild-card standings — Philadelphia, Carolina and Washington — all lost to fall below .500. The Vikings (6-5-1) would still hang onto a half-game lead for the final wild-card spot even with a loss on Monday night, and according to Five Thirty Eight, they have a 57 percent chance of making the playoffs even if they lose.
The Bears’ win over the Rams on Sunday night, though, means the Vikings will remain at least 1 1/2 games behind Chicago in the division standings, no matter what happens Monday night. A loss would drop the Vikings 2 1/2 games back of Chicago with three to play, meaning the Bears could clinch the division title with one more win or Vikings loss. While a victory over the Seahawks would still leave the Vikings needing to beat the Dolphins and Lions while hoping for a Bears loss (to either the Packers or 49ers) before the two teams meet at U.S. Bank Stadium on Dec. 30, they’d at least still have a conceivable path to a division title and home playoff game. According to Five Thirty Eight, the Vikings’ chances to make the playoffs with a win on Monday night would stand at 91 percent, with their division title hopes at 17 percent.
A victory on Monday night would move the Vikings up to the No. 5 seed in the NFC, meaning they’d be in position to head to Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. A loss would keep the Vikings in the No. 6 spot, slated to head to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.
Depending on how things shake out, the Vikings could find themselves in a similar scenario to the one they faced at the end of the 2012 season, when they beat the Packers — who’d already clinched the NFC North title — in Week 17 at home, before they traveled to Green Bay for a road wild-card playoff game the next week.