With Arizona limping into Seattle with its 3-12 record, the Seahawks are very, very likely to capture the NFC’s fifth seed. That leaves the Vikings stuck in the sixth seed if they beat the Bears at home or the Eagles lose or tie at Washington.
History suggests that might not be such a bad thing.
Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the NFC’s sixth seed is 14-14 in wild card games. The NFC’s fifth seed is 9-19 in wild card games.
The Vikings, of course, have contributed to the strong record by the NFC’s sixth seeds. On both sides of the ledger.
As a sixth seed, the Vikings are 2-2 in the first round. They went on the road and beat the Packers 31-17 in 2004 and the Giants in 1997. They lost at Green Bay in 2012 and Dallas in 1996.
As a third seed playing the sixth seed, the Vikings are — wince or look away — 0-4. Playing at home, they lost to Washington 24-7 in 1992, Chicago 35-18 in 1994, Philadelphia 26-14 in 2008 and Seattle 10-9 in 2015.
As a fifth seed, the Vikings are 0-1, losing to the Giants 17-10 in 1993.
In first-round games in the AFC, the sixth seed is 8-20 while the fifth seed is 10-18 in the first round.
So the overall first-round records for the NFL’s fifth and sixth seeds heading into the 29th season of the 12-team format are:
Fifth seeds: 19-37 with one team advancing to win the Super Bowl (Giants over Patriots 2007).
Sixth seeds: 22-34 with two teams advancing to win the Super Bowl (Packers over Steelers 2010; Steelers over Seattle 2005) .