For the most part, Head Coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings, who were of course idle today after playing this week's Thursday game, had to be pleased with what transpired today in regards to the team's chances of making the playoffs.
We'll start with the bad: the Packers moved a game ahead of the Vikings in the race for the NFC North crown with their 28-7 win over the Cowboys at a rainy Lambeau Field. But given the Cowboys were without Tony Romo and were 4-8 heading into the game, not too many expected Dallas to upset Aaron Rodgers and Co.
View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Dec. 11 game against Arizona.
The other bit of bad news was that the Seattle Seahawks stayed hot and won easily against the depleted Ravens by a 35-6 score to tie the Vikings at 8-5 in the NFC standings. Because the Seahawks beat the Vikings last Sunday, they hold the tiebreaker over the Vikings in the NFC Wild Card race, so as of now the Seahawks sit as the No. 5 seed in the NFC, the Vikings at No. 6.
Now onto the good stuff, starting in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers, who came into the day with a 6-6 record and had won three of their last four, were upset at home by the Saints. The Bucs now sit at 6-7, two full games back of the Vikings for the final Wild Card spot.
The unbeaten Panthers easily dispatched of the Falcons by a 38-0 score in Charlotte, leaving the Falcons at 6-7 and losers of six straight games. The Vikings hold the tiebreaker over Atlanta thanks to their win over the Falcons, so they are essentially three games clear of Atlanta at this point with three to play.
The Eagles won their second game in a row, beating the Bills 23-20, and now sit at 6-7 as well. The Giants are currently 5-7 and play at Miami on Monday night, so they could enter the Wild Card mix as well by the time week 14 wraps up.
So, because the Vikings are 8-5 and two games ahead of all teams chasing them for the final Wild Card spot, that means with two more wins the team will guarantee itself a playoff berth for the first time since 2012.
The Vikings also control their own destiny when it comes to the NFC North. Even though they trail the Packers by one game, the Vikings – should they win their next two games (vs. CHI, vs. NYG) before the week 17 matchup at Lambeau Field against the Packers – would go into that game knowing that if they beat the Packers they'd win the NFC North.
If Green Bay wins their next two games (at OAK, at ARI) and the Vikings hold serve at home, the Packers would be 11-4, the Vikings 10-5. However, if the Vikings would then beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in week 17, both teams would be 11-5, they would have split their two head-to-head matchups (which is the first tiebreaker), but the Vikings would finish 5-1 in the division, while the Packers would be just 3-3, so the division crown would go to the Vikings.
You can rest assured though the Zimmer and the coaching staff are focused on just one thing, and that's Sunday's game at TCF Bank Stadium against the Bears.
The Vikings will return to practice on Tuesday at Winter Park.