And then there were eight.
The Vikings upset of the Saints in New Orleans Sunday advanced Minnesota to the Divisional round of the playoffs and kept alive their pursuit of a Super Bowl appearance.
CBS Sports' Jordan Dajani recently ranked every remaining team and listed the Vikings at No. 5 overall (third among NFC teams). He wrote:
Wow. How about the Vikings? The Saints were a Super Bowl favorite this season, and Kirk Cousins and Co. marched down to New Orleans and took Drew Brees down in overtime! Cousins passed for 242 yards and a touchdown, and Dalvin Cook recorded 130 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns, but the MVP award goes to Minnesota's defense as a whole. Defensive linemen Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen combined for eight tackles, [3.0] sacks and a forced fumble, and safety Harrison Smith led the team in tackles while his running mate, Anthony Harris, picked off Brees once. Now that Cousins finally has that big win and a strong defense to go along with it – who knows how far the Vikings can go?
The Vikings are scheduled to face the No. 1 seed 49ers in San Francisco on Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:35 p.m. (CT).
Dajani placed the 49ers at No. 3 on his list (first among NFC teams).
We have poked and prodded the 49ers for their faults all year, but they gutted out a 26-21 win over the Seahawks in Week 17 to acquire a first-round bye and finished with a 13-3 record.
Dajani praised San Francisco's running backs, wide receivers and defense and opined that "it's all going to come down to if Jimmy Garoppolo can get the job done."
[Garoppolo] got better as the season progressed, and he completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 349 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the statement win over the Saints in Week 14. He also played well during the win in Seattle last week, and he completed a season-high 81.8 percent of his passes for 285 yards. It seems like he understands when to rely on his play-makers and when he needs to shoulder the load, which is important for this team if [it wants] to make the Super Bowl. Additionally, defenses still win championships, and the 49ers allowed just 281.8 yards per game in the regular season. That's second in the league behind the Patriots.
Dajani's full rankings were as follows: Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers, Packers, Vikings, Titans, Texans, Seahawks.
"Vikings Postgame" Live After Saturday's Game
Visit vikings.com, the Vikings App, Vikings Now (Connected TV app), or the team's Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages to watch "Vikings Postgame" after Saturday's game against the 49ers.
Sessler ranks SB matchups he'd most like to see
Two games stand between Minnesota and Super Bowl LIV.
The Vikings know, however, the importance of taking each week at a time, and right now they are prepping for the difficult challenge the 49ers present.
So while the Vikings are being careful not to look too far ahead, NFL.com's Marc Sessler had some fun and ranked the five Super Bowl matchups he'd most like to see with the remaining teams.
Note: These are not the matchups Sessler believes are most likely – just the ones he's "rooting for" as we approach the Divisional round.
At No. 3 on his list, Sessler pitted the Vikings against the Ravens in the Big Dance – and opined that Minnesota might have the upper hand in this particular matchup. Sessler wrote:
In this scenario, I foresee a troubled fate for Baltimore. In the same way Flacco dropped a nuclear bomb on his critics by guiding that old Ravens team to glory in 2012, this story would star Kirk Cousins. Minnesota's folksy passer isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the concept of Cousins slaying a pair of NFC heavies before toppling the uber-dangerous Ravens is the stuff of football legend.
I was all-out on the Vikings after they crumbled on Monday night to Green Bay, but Sunday's flex-your-muscles defeat of the Saints said plenty about Cousins and this unified locker room. From here, anything feels possible.
Which other matchups is Sessler hoping for?
He topped his rankings with a Ravens-49ers Super Bowl, followed by Chiefs-Packers, Ravens-Vikings, Chiefs-49ers and Texans-Seahawks.
PFF explains remaining teams' shots at Super Bowl LIV
A lot will happen between now and Super Bowl LIV, and it will be interesting to see which teams move on this weekend to the conference championship games.
Eric Eager of analytics site Pro Football Focus used metrics to break down each team's chances of winning it all. Worth noting is that he gave Baltimore the highest chance at 25.5 percent.
For Minnesota, Eager gave the No. 6 seed team an 8.2-percent chance of winning Super Bowl LIV. He wrote:
Beating the second-best team in the NFL on the road in the playoffs will significantly increase your underlying power metrics, which were already good for Minnesota (seventh in the NFL, five points better than the average NFL team). Kirk Cousins is a top-five NFL player in terms of PFF WAR and played like it against the Saints, completing two of his five passes more than 20 yards in the air, including a brilliant pass to Adam Thielen to set up his game-winning fade to Kyle Rudolph in overtime.
We are a little higher on their chances to win in San Francisco than others, noting the similarity in the two teams' approach to offensive football, making [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's prowess as a defensive play-caller ever the more valuable on Saturday.