Here’s a subject we got to toward the end of this week’s Access Vikings podcast, prompted by a question from a listener:
Who are the teams you prefer to see in the playoffs if you’re the Vikings, and who are the teams you’d like to avoid?
Every team in the postseason is obviously dangerous, but things like personnel matchups, playoff pedigree and even old grudges can play a role in determining these preferences. As such, here’s a look at a path I think the Vikings would prefer … and some opponents I’d assume they’d rather not see:
THE IDEAL REALISTIC PATH
Getting the No. 1 overall seed took a big hit with last week’s loss to Carolina. The Vikings would need to win two more games than the Eagles over the next three weeks to gain that edge. But it’s still quite realistic for Minnesota to grab the No. 2 seed, which carries with it the second bye. Two wins in the final three games is most likely enough to ensure that.
That would give the Vikings the first weekend off, then have them playing the highest remaining seeded team in the division round. That could be any number of teams, but the likeliest are the Rams, Seahawks or Saints — with the Panthers and Falcons also in the mix.
The Vikings already defeated the Rams, Saints and Falcons this year. Of the three, a rematch with the Rams seems like the most preferable matchup because L.A. has a young quarterback and lacks postseason experience. The Panthers beat the Vikings last week in Carolina, but I think the Vikings would handle them at home in a rematch. That’s preference No. 2.
Let’s say it is the Rams first. A win there would put the Vikings in the NFC title game. At that point, the idea of home field trumps all else. So the ideal path would be the Eagles getting knocked out in the division round by the Panthers and the Vikings hosting Carolina in the NFC title game. Vikings vs. Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium would be my next preference, followed by Vikings/Falcons. That said, Philadelphia without Carson Wentz could be vulnerable in the postseason. I’d give the Vikings coin-flip odds of winning an NFC title game in Philadelphia if that was the matchup.
DO NOT WANT
If you’re the Vikings, I don’t think you want to see Seattle at any point in the playoffs. Russell Wilson is so good at extending plays, and Seattle is battle-tested. I’d generally want to avoid Atlanta, too.
And as I wrote about the other day, this one is a long shot but at no point do the Vikings want to see the Packers in the playoffs. Green Bay still has a large hill to climb just to reach the postseason, but the prospect of a motivated and angry Aaron Rodgers coming into U.S. Bank Stadium should not make anyone comfortable, regardless of how flawed the Packers’ roster is.