EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings know they're in the playoffs.
They know they're the No. 6 seed. But what they don't know is which team they'll be facing.
Minnesota could play one of four NFC teams – Seattle, New Orleans, Green Bay or San Francisco – in the Wild Card round and will find out its opponent on Sunday night.
It is most likely that the Vikings will either have a rematch with the Seahawks, whom they lost to in Week 13, or travel south to play the Saints.
The Vikings will go to Seattle if …
The Packers, Saints and Seahawks win
The Packers and Seahawks win and Saints lose
The Vikings will go to New Orleans if …
The Packers and 49ers win
The Packers, 49ers and Saints lose
The Seahawks win and the Packers and Saints lose
The Vikings will go to Green Bay if …
The Packers lose to the Lions and the Saints and 49ers win their games
The Packers lose and the Saints and Seahawks win
The Vikings will go to San Francisco if …
The Packers and Saints win and the 49ers tie the Seahawks
The Saints weathered the loss of Drew Brees during the middle of the season with the help of former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater, who led New Orleans on a 5-0 run in the absence of their starting passer. Brees returned in Week 8 and has been on fire since, currently leading the league with an NFL-record 75.3 completion percentage. (For the record, he's broken his own record more than once).
New Orleans' defense is dinged up, however, which could play a factor in the postseason.
While the Saints are battered defensively, the Seahawks are significantly injured on offense; they recently added running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny to Injured Reserve. Seattle this week signed Marshawn Lynch, who wasn't on a roster. Seattle defeated Minnesota 37-30 in Week 13, doing the largest amount of damage on the ground via Carson and Penny, who combined for 176 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
If the Vikings end up going to Green Bay, it will mark the second time in a three-week span and third this season. Minnesota will be looking for its first win against rookie Head Coach Matt LaFleur, who has helped guide the Packers to a 12-3 record heading into their regular-season finale at Detroit.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' numbers have been more pedestrian than usual this season, but Green Bay's attention to its defense over the offseason has paid off. Packers pass rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith wreaked plenty of havoc on Minnesota's offensive line in Week 16.
The least-likely playoff scenario for the Vikings is facing the 49ers, but never say never.
If that ends up happening, the Vikings would travel to San Francisco for the first time since 2015. The 49ers currently boast the No. 2 offense in points scored this season (453) while ranking eighth defensively in points against (289).
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is 311-of-454 passing this season for 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a passer rating of 101.0. Tight end George Kittle is leading the team in receiving yards with 967, while Raheem Mostert is the leading rusher with 715 yards on the ground.
Regardless of who the Vikings playoff opponent is, Head Coach Mike Zimmer emphasized the importance of finishing out the regular season strong.
"Our focus is this week," Zimmer told Twin Cities beat reporters via conference call Thursday. "But we've got some guys doing some work on the possibilities – you know, you always do when you're getting ready to go into the playoffs and you don't know who you're playing – you always break down the three or four teams, and you get everything ready for when it happens.
"It's little bit more difficult when you don't find out until Sunday night, and then it could be a Saturday game," Zimmer added of the possibility of a short week. "We'll just do the best we can."
The Vikings on Friday ruled out running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (quad).
Running back Alexander Mattison (ankle), safety Jayron Kearse (foot) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (knee) are questionable.
That means that fans will likely once again see a heavy dose of Mike Boone, while Ameer Abdullah will also continue to be a solid option out of the backfield. And don't minimize the involvement of fullback C.J. Ham, either.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) have been full participants all week and did not receive a status on Friday's injury report.
As a reminder, Zimmer said earlier this week that he hadn't decided on whether or not to play Minnesota's starters this week. Because the outcome of Sunday's game cannot change the Vikings playoff seeding, maintaining the team's health is a consideration.
The Bears ruled out receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (concussion) and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (elbow). Tackles Bobby Massie (ankle) and Rashaad Coward (knee) were listed as doubtful, and cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) is questionable.
Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (knee) did not have a status on the report and likely will be good to go.
At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of chatter about Hercules Mata'afa. I haven't heard a thing lately. Is he hurt? Could you update us? Thanks.
– Gary from Spring Grove, MN
Mata'afa is healthy but has been inactive in recent games. The fact that fans haven't seen a lot from the 2018 undrafted free agent thus far doesn't necessarily reflect negatively on him; the Vikings like what they have in the starters. Plus, rookie Armon Watts has carved out a role along with Jaleel Johnson on the inside. If Zimmer decides to rest defensive starters, though, it's possible that Mata'afa could get some playing time on Sunday.
"There's a lot of things to learn. The first thing you do after a game like [Monday Night] is look at the tape, replay it about a hundred times while lying in bed after the game, and just try to figure out what you could have done better and then try to come out this week and work on those things and try to move forward. It's really tough to move forward after a blowout win and a bad loss. Those are the toughest times to move forward, but you have to learn from either one and move forward as fast as possible.
– WR Adam Thielen on bouncing back from a tough loss to Green Bay
Stat of the Week
The Vikings have one of the top pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
But don't just take my word for it – let's let the numbers tell the story. Since the Vikings drafted Danielle Hunter 88th overall in 2015, he and Everson Griffen have combined for 99.5 sacks – the most by any two teammates in that time span.
FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities)
Play-by-Play: Dick Stockton
Analyst: Mark Schlereth
Sideline Reporter: Jen Hale
KFAN (100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul)
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber
Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 10 a.m. (CT)
KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.
Sirius: CHI 133 or Streaming 805; MIN 82 or Streaming 819
XM: CHI 382 or Streaming 805; MIN 227 or Streaming 819
Click here for the full bevy of options that include over-the-air, cable, satellite, over-the-top and streaming methods.