Sunday was a weird day in the NFL. Most of us went into the day thinking the Vikings would likely have a playoff spot wrapped up by the time their Sunday night game kicked off. After all, all that needed to happen was Carolina beating Atlanta OR Seattle beating the Rams. Carolina hadn’t lost all year. Seattle was a huge home favorite.
So much for that.
It created an odd tenor for the Vikings vs. Giants game, whereby the Vikings hadn’t clinched a playoff spot but by virtue of Green Bay getting walloped at Arizona it had already been determined next week’s game at Lambeau would decide the NFC North champ.
I have a feeling Mike Zimmer secretly enjoyed this. He’s an earn it guy, not a back it in guy, and having his team need to stay sharp by beating the Giants was a great thing. And his team certainly did that, with the Vikings dominating New York.
The surprising Seattle loss combined with the Vikings win added another interesting dynamic to the postseason puzzle: Minnesota has three separate teams it could face in the first game of the postseason, now that it has clinched a spot.
A win next week at Green Bay gives the Vikings the No. 3 seed. Regardless of what Seattle does next week, the Seahawks would be the No. 6 seed (if they finish in a tie with the Packers at 10-6, Green Bay has the tiebreaker). That would mean the Vikings will host Seattle if they win the division.
A loss next week at Green Bay presents two outcomes based on what Seattle does. If the Seahawks lose to the Cardinals, the Vikings would be the No. 5 seed and play at Washington. If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals, the Vikings would be the No. 6 seed and turn right back around for a third crack at the Packers (the Seahawks have the tiebreaker edge over the Vikings).
I presented these scenarios on Twitter tonight, and there is an undercurrent of Vikings fandom that suggests the Vikings would be better off losing next week in order to potentially play Washington (or even Green Bay) instead of a matchup with Seattle, which dominated the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium earlier this year.
Here’s the thing: I understand the place from which this sentiment is coming from. But it really needs to stop. Winning the NFC North by beating the Packers at Lambeau would be a symbolic victory. But it would also be more than that.
The playoffs are full of tough teams. Washington is playing well right now. You always want the home game, regardless of opponent. Seattle, here, in frigid January might be a totally different team than the one we saw a few weeks ago. Get the three seed, win a home game, win a road game, and there’s a chance you’ll get to host the NFC title game if the other top team goes down.
If the Vikings end up losing next week and up as the No. 5 or No. 6 seed, so be it. But that’s the fallback, not the preference. Always.