Just like old times. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are each 8-3 following a blowout win by the San Francisco 49ers over the Packers on Sunday Night Football. The loss puts the Vikings in position to win the NFC North with a strong finish to the season — which would very likely have to include a victory over the Packers on December 23.
The Vikings’ route to the top of the North might go through Seattle. Next week the Vikings head to the Pacific Northwest for a Monday Night Football battle with the Seahawks — a game that could play a role in Minnesota’s playoff seeding.
The Vikings will likely need to finish with a better record than the Packers because division record would act as a tie breaker and Green Bay defeated Chicago and Detroit in previous matchups whereas Minnesota lost to the Bears in Week 4. Both teams still have a remaining game against the Bears and Lions but those clubs are struggling with Chicago barely surviving the lowly Giants this week and Detroit giving Washington its second win of the season.
Green Bay’s out-of-division games are very winnable. They take on the Giants next week and then Washington in Week 15. Losing either game would mark the biggest upset of the entire NFL season. The combined record of Green Bay’s final four non-Vikings opponents is 12-31-1.
A win against the Seahawks would give the Vikings a chance at running the table. They follow up the MNF matchup next week with a home game against Detroit, who is reportedly considering shutting down Matthew Stafford for the rest of the year, and then a road game against the Chargers, the December 23 game versus Green Bay and a home matchup with 5-6 Chicago.
Heading into Sunday’s games the Vikings had more than a 90% chance of making the playoffs according to ESPN odds. The Los Angeles Rams present the only reasonable threat to Minnesota with a 6-4 record and a game with the high-flying Baltimore Ravens set for Monday night.
Under the current playoff picture the 49ers and New Orleans Saints would earn first-round byes while the Vikings would go on the road to play Green Bay and Seattle would take on the Cowboys in Dallas. The Vikings get home field in the first round of the playoffs by winning the division, though a first-round bye is not impossible if they sweep the rest of the slate.
Minnesota is currently far ahead of Green Bay in point differential at plus-84 while the Packers have outscored their opponents by just 16 total points after being demolished 37-8 on the road. The 49ers are the best team in point differential in the NFC at plus-169. The Vikings are third, one point behind the Cowboys, who lost a close game in New England on Sunday.
Next Monday’s game will be important for Seattle as well. After beating the 49ers last week, they still have an opportunity to win the NFC West with a Week 17 game against San Francisco and matchups with L.A., Carolina and Arizona remaining. The 49ers’ schedule doesn’t get any easier after their in over Green Bay as Kyle Shanahan’s team goes against Baltimore and New Orleans the next two weeks.