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NFC Playoff Picture: Vikings Status After Week 15

EAGAN, Minn. — The Purple missed a golden opportunity to create distance from a pack of Wild Card contenders on Saturday in Cincinnati.

As emotionally draining as the 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals was, it was not an NFC matchup, so it won't be as detrimental if tiebreakers are needed.

Minnesota (7-7) also received some help elsewhere and remained in the No. 6 seed in the conference with three games remaining in the regular season.

The Vikings must win out and have the Lions (10-4) lose out for Minnesota to repeat as NFC North Champions. Minnesota hosts Detroit this Sunday and then visits the Motor City in Week 18.

In between, the Vikings will host the Packers (6-8), and the Lions will visit the Cowboys (10-4) in Week 17.

Since the NFL expanded the playoffs in 2020 to include seven teams in each conference, No. 2 seeds will now play on Wild Card Weekend and host No. 7 seeds.

Here's a look at the current NFC playoff picture — with conference standings and a status update — as we head into Week 16.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (11-3)

Remaining Schedule

12/25 Ravens (11-3)

12/31 @ Commanders (4-10)

1/7/24 Rams (7-7)

Status: The 49ers are riding a six-game win streak that started after consecutive losses at the Browns and Vikings, and at home against the Bengals. Each of those six wins has been by 12 or more points, and 10 of 11 "dubs" have been by at least two scores.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Dolphins (10-4)

12/30 Lions (10-4)

1/7/24 @ Commanders (4-10)

Status: The Cowboys stubbed their toes at Buffalo but then received help from the Seahawks against the Eagles on Monday. It's obviously a big stretch for Dallas coming up because of the big differences between earning a No. 2 vs. being a Wild Card team.

  1. Detroit Lions (10-4)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Vikings (7-7)

12/30 @ Cowboys (10-4)

1/7/24 Vikings (7-7)

Status: The Lions took care of their turf on Saturday against the Broncos and have earned the right to play in a "hat and shirt" game. The Vikings will try to prevent the boxes of division title merch from being opened at U.S. Bank Stadium.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 Jaguars (8-6)

12/31 Saints (7-7)

1/7/24 @ Panthers (2-12)

Status: Tampa Bay improved to 4-4 in road games this season by cruising past Green Bay. Baker Mayfield recorded the first perfect passer rating (158.3 in the NFL) by an opposing quarterback at Lambeau Field.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)

Remaining Schedule

12/25 Giants (5-9)

12/31 Cardinals (3-11)

1/7/24 @ Giants (5-9)

Status: The Eagles continued their December dive by blowing a late lead against the Seahawks in Seattle. That's back-to-back-to-back losses to the Niners (42-19), Cowboys (33-13) and Seahawks (20-17) after becoming the NFC's fastest to 10 wins this season.

  1. Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 Lions (10-4)

12/31 Packers (6-8)

1/7/24 @ Lions (10-4)

Status: The Vikings can control their own playoff fate but face one of the toughest remaining slates in the NFL. The best Minnesota can finish at home this season is 4-4, a distant mark from the 8-1 showing in 2022, and the Vikings will need both if they intend to continue to pace set for the No. 6 seed.

  1. Los Angeles Rams (7-7)

Remaining Schedule

12/21 Saints (7-7)

12/31 @ Giants (5-9)

1/7/24 @ 49ers (11-3)

Status: The Rams have a potentially pivotal game against the Saints on Thursday Night Football.

  1. Seattle Seahawks (7-7)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Titans (5-9)

12/31 Steelers (7-7)

1/7/24 @ Cardinals (3-11)

Status: Based on the remaining schedule, it wouldn't be wise to sleep on Seattle. The Seahawks snapped a four-game losing streak by driving 92 yards in 1:24 and taking their first lead of the game on a 29-yard touchdown pass by Drew Lock with 28 seconds remaining against the Eagles.

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-7)

Remaining Schedule

12/21 @ Rams (7-7)

12/31 @ Buccaneers (7-7)

1/7/24 Falcons (6-8)

Status: Although on the outside looking in right now, the Saints can change that fortune in the next two weeks. Minnesota has a tiebreaker on New Orleans and Atlanta but not against Tampa Bay, so the Vikings are likely better off if the Bucs win the NFC South.

  1. Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 Colts (8-6)

12/31 @ Bears (5-9)

1/7/24 @ Saints (7-7)

Status: Back-to-back division losses (at home to the Bucs and in the rain at the Panthers) have been detrimental to Atlanta's chances of winning the NFC South.

  1. Green Bay Packers (6-8)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Panthers (2-12)

12/31 @ Vikings (7-7)

1/7/24 Bears (5-9)

Status: Green Bay is 2-5 this season away from Lambeau Field, with both wins occurring against NFC North foes (at Chicago in Week 1 and at Detroit on Thanksgiving). The home loss to the Bucs dropped the Packers from the No. 7 to the No. 11 spot in the conference standings this week.

  1. New York Giants (5-9)

Remaining Schedule

12/25 @ Eagles (10-4)

12/31 Rams (7-7)

1/7/24 Eagles (10-4)

Status: The Giants were outscored 17-0 in the second half in The Big Easy on Sunday, and the road ahead isn't easy street.

  1. Chicago Bears (5-9)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 Cardinals (3-11)

12/31 Falcons (6-8)

1/7/24 @ Packers (6-8)

Status: The Bears led the Browns 17-7 entering the fourth quarter and also surrendered a double-digit lead as Cleveland provided the game's only fourth-quarter points. A field goal with 32 seconds remaining completed the Browns comeback for a 20-17 win.

  1. Washington Commanders (4-10)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Jets (5-9)

12/31 49ers (11-3)

1/7/24 Cowboys (10-4)

Status: The Commanders returned from a Week 14 bye and said "bye" to any chance of making the playoffs with a loss at the Los Angeles Rams.

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-11)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 @ Bears (5-9)

12/31 @ Eagles (10-4)

1/7/24 Seahawks (7-7)

Status: The Cardinals and Commanders were the only two teams with Week 14 byes. Arizona returned to action and lost 45-29 to the 49ers.

  1. Carolina Panthers (2-12)

Remaining Schedule

12/24 Packers (6-8)

12/31 @ Jaguars (8-6)

1/7/24 Buccaneers (7-7)

Status: Already eliminated, the Panthers enjoyed their first opportunity to throw a wrench in the plans of a playoff-hopeful team (Falcons). They have three more opportunities to do the same.