The Vikings improved to 10-4 with their convincing win over the Chargers in Week 15. They are getting closer to securing the final playoff berth in the NFC.
With Sunday’s results, the Packers, 49ers, Seahawks officially joined the South Division champion Saints as four of the conference’s six playoff teams. The fifth spot (and the No. 4 seed) belongs to the winner of the NFC East, either the Cowboys or the Eagles.
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That leaves the Vikings still vying for the sixth and final spot. They can get it through one of two ways: a wild-card berth or an NFC North title.
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With two weeks left in the regular season, here’s a look at each path:
How the Vikings can get in as a wild card
The Vikings have a two-game lead over the Rams (8-6) going into Week 16. That means the Vikings will be in the playoffs by either beating the Packers at home in Week 16 or the Bears at home in Week 17. They also can get in the playoffs if the Rams lose to the 49ers on the road in Week 16 or to the Cardinals at home in Week 17.
Should the Vikings finish 0-2 and the Rams finish 2-0, the Rams would have the tiebreaker with a better conference record (8-4) than the Vikings (7-5).
How the Vikings can go from the No. 6 seed to the No. 5 seed
Getting the top wild-card spot in the NFC would be nice for the Vikings. That means they would play either the Cowboys or the Eagles on the road, but those are also two teams they beat during the regular season.
No. 5 currently belongs to the 49ers (11-3). Should the Vikings win out and the 49ers lose out to fall to 11-5, the Vikings, then 12-4, can jump up to No. 5. Should the Vikings and the 49ers finish with identical records as wild-card teams, the Vikings can get to No. 5 if they can go 2-0 while the 49ers beat the Rams but lose to the Seahawks.
Should the 49ers win the NFC West by winning out against the Rams and Seahawks with the Seahawks and Vikings both finishing 12-4, the Vikings would be out of luck there, having lost at Seattle in Week 13.
How the Vikings can win the NFC North
The Vikings play the first-place Packers (11-3) at home on Monday night in Week 16. Should the Vikings beat the Packers, both teams would be 11-4.
The problem for the Vikings is that would improve their division record to only 3-2, while the Packers would drop to 4-1. That means, in that scenario, the Packers would hold the first tiebreaker going into Week 17, when they travel to the lowly Lions (3-10-1) while the Vikings host the Bears (7-7), to whom they lost in Chicago in Week 4.
The Packers need to beat only the Vikings or Lions to take the division. The Vikings need to beat the Packers and the Bears and need help from the Lions. So the Bears might have already played spoiler to the Vikings before meeting in the season finale.