Barring a generational collapse, the Minnesota Vikings are set to be playoff-bound for the first time since 2019.
For fans, it is exciting to see a team that appears to have the talent to make a deep postseason run actually get the chance to do so.
Amazingly, the Vikings could clinch the NFC North next week with a win and a Lions loss respectively. Clinching a playoff berth this early is practically unheard of, as the last time a team claimed a division with five weeks left in the regular season was in 2009 with the Indianapolis Colts.
While Minnesota could still earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles still hold the spot and sit one game ahead of the Vikings. Philadelphia also holds the tiebreaker over Minnesota due to their 24-7 win in September.
While a matchup between the current top two seeds in the conference would likely not take place until deep in the playoffs, it would probably look different than it did in Week 2.
After starting the season 8-0, the Eagles have not looked nearly as dominant since their Week 9 home loss to the Washington Commanders. The next week in Indianapolis, they barely squeaked out a 17-16 win in the Colts’ first game since hiring former player Jeff Saturday, whose only coaching experience prior was at the high school level.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is still having an MVP-type season, last week against the Green Bay Packers becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to run for 150 yards, throw for 150 yards, and throw two touchdowns in the same game.
The San Francisco 49ers have picked up steam over the last few weeks after starting 3-4, winning their last four games. QB Jimmy Garoppolo has not thrown a pick since Week 7, and the team’s defense has held its last two opponents to a combined 13 points.
The Niners, who were the last Vikings’ playoff opponent in 2019, sit two games behind Minnesota in the playoff picture in the No. 3 spot, but are just one game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West crown.
In the No. 4 seed is the only team currently in a playoff position with a losing record, the 5-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team is 5-2 in conference play, a good sign for them if they make it to the postseason. But first, Tampa Bay has to actually get there.
The defense is allowing just 18.6 points per game, good enough for 7th-best in the league, but the offense is on the other side of the coin, averaging 18.2 points per game which is just 27th in the league.
Luckily for the team, the NFC South seems to be the weakest division in the NFL, as no teams have a winning record. The Atlanta Falcons are 5-7 and are right on the Bucs’ tail, but have lost three of their last four games.
Currently in the No. 5, 6, and 7 spots in the conference are all NFC East teams. The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Commanders all have winning records, making up the only NFC division with all winning teams.
The Cowboys demolished the Vikings in a massive 40-3 blowout in Week 11, and Minnesota took down Washington 20-17 in Week 9. The Giants travel to Minnesota on Christmas Eve, a game that will likely have seeding implications.
If the postseason were to start today, the Vikings would face the Washington Commanders for the second time this season. In the first meeting Washington held running back Dalvin Cook to just 2.8 yards per carry, and that was without star defensive end Chase Young.
There are favorable and unfavorable matchups the Vikings could have in the first round, but the team would be lucky to face Washington if it happened.