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Punch-drunk with playoff fever, many of you have asked what it would take for Minnesota to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff picture and a first-round bye.
There have been plenty of scenarios presented in various comment sections of this blog, so let's bring them all together and provide a definitive look. Every scenario requires the Vikings to win their final two games and is aided by the current top seeds, Carolina and the New York Giants, facing off Sunday night at Giants Stadium.
Let's look at the two primary possibilities:
1. Vikings win out. Carolina loses out. Both teams finish 11-5. New York Giants take No. 1 seed. Vikings take No. 2 seed based on head-to-head tiebreaker with the Panthers. (Minnesota 20, Carolina 10 on Sept. 21.)
2. Vikings win out. Carolina wins at least one game. Giants lose out. Vikings and Giants finish 11-5. Carolina takes No. 1 seed. Vikings take No. 2 seed based on head-to-head tiebreaker with Giants. (In order to win out, the Vikings will have to defeat the Giants on Dec. 28.)
There is one complication, however. Carolina hasn't yet secured the NFC South title. Tampa Bay (9-5) or Atlanta (9-5) could win out and overtake the Panthers for the division title.
If the Buccaneers win the division, they would take the No. 2 seed because of a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings. (Tampa Bay 19, Minnesota 13 on Nov. 16.) The Vikings and Falcons square off this weekend, so if Atlanta wins the division, that means the Vikings would have lost at least one of their final two games and would not be a factor for the No. 2 seed.
Hope that makes sense. There will be a quiz on Friday.