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Lions loss to Cowboys may be significant for Vikings

The Vikings enter Sunday's action with a 25% chance to make the playoffs, according to the New York Times' playoff simulations.
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Detroit's loss to the Cowboys on Saturday night may be a blessing for the Vikings. 

Before Saturday night's game in Dallas the Lions were 11-4, sitting third in the NFC behind second place Philadelphia (11-4) and the first place 49ers (11-4). San Francisco holds the top seed thanks to a win over the Eagles and a better conference record than the Lions. Philly held the tiebreaker over the Lions thanks to a better strength of victory. 

Now at 11-5, the Lions could lock in the No. 3 seed if both the Eagles and 49ers win on Sunday. If that happens, there will be little reason for Detroit to play its best players in Week 18 against the Vikings. 

The Eagles are 13-point favorites at home against the three-win Cardinals and the 49ers are 14-point favorites on the road against the 4-11 Washington Commanders, so the odds favor Detroit settling into the third seed with no ability to move up or down in the final week of the regular season. 

None of that matters if the Vikings don't beat the Packers on Sunday Night Football because the Vikings need to win out to have a chance at the postseason. They'll also need the Rams or Seahawks to lose once in the final two weeks. 

The Rams visit the New York Giants this week and close the regular season next week in San Francisco. The Seahawks host the Steelers this week before wrapping up next week on the road against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. 

The best-case scenario for Minnesota is the Rams or Seahawks losing while the 49ers and Eagles win. That would set the stage for the Vikings to control their own destiny, only needing a win at home against the Packers and then possibly winning in Detroit against a team that has nothing to play for. 

According to The Upshot's NFL playoff simulator via the New York Times, the Vikings enter Sunday with a 25% chance to make the playoffs. They have a chance, but by no means is their path to the postseason a smooth surface. 

Dak Prescott, Aidan Hutchinson

Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson tries to tackle Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott during the first half at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023.