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Vikings likely to play big role in determining NFC's top seed

It will take a bit of luck for the Vikings to jump the Eagles.
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There are eight weeks left in the regular season and because it's never too early to start talking about anything in the NFL, let's dive into the presumed contenders to find out what it will take to claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the first-round playoff bye that comes with the top spot. 

To earn the top spot, a team first must win their division. That means we can confidently cross out the Commanders, Giants, Packers, Bears, Panthers, Rams and Cardinals. The No. 1 seed must also be supremely good, so we can, with solid confidence, eliminate the Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons

That leaves a short list of contenders entering Week 11. 

  • Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)
  • Detroit Lions (7-2)
  • Dallas Cowboys (6-3)
  • San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
  • Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
  • Minnesota Vikings (6-4)

Philly is the cream of the crop since it leads the NFC East by two games, owns the tiebreaker (currently) over second place Dallas and has a win over the Vikings. 

While the Cowboys could steal back the tiebreaker with a win over Philly on Dec. 10, the only way the Vikings could find themselves ahead of the Eagles is by finishing with a better record, which would require at least three more wins than Philly over the next eight weeks. 

For context, if the Vikings go 7-0 over the next eight weeks (they have a bye in Week 13), they'd need the Eagles to go 4-4 or worse in their final eight games. That precise scenario would see the Vikings finish 13-4 while the Eagles would be 12-5. 

That means we can probably cross the Vikings off the list because the Eagles finishing .500 is unlikely as they finish with games against the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks before three likely laughers against the lowly Giants, Cardinals and Giants again. 

And we're going to go ahead and scratch Seattle from contention because they play five of their final eight games on the road and their three home games are against the 8-1 Eagles, 6-3 49ers and 6-3 Steelers. Good luck with that.

That leaves us with four contenders for the top seed in the NFC: Philly, Detroit, Dallas and San Francisco. 

Dallas and San Francisco have the eighth- and ninth-hardest remaining schedules in the NFL, respectively, according to Tankathon. 

It's always hard to buy into the Cowboys being for real, but they are 6-3 and their only losses are in Philly, San Francisco and Arizona. And the way Josh Dobbs has played in Minnesota makes that loss to the Cardinals a little less embarrassing. The reality, however, is that Dallas has to beat the Eagles at home on Dec. 10 or they have no shot. 

The 49ers looked like world beaters before three straight losses to the Browns, Vikings and Bengals, and they looked like world beaters again on Sunday when they dismantled a good Jaguars team in Jacksonville 34-3. But when you break it all down it's quite simple: San Francisco's chance at the No. 1 seed will likely be determined Dec. 3 when they play in Philadelphia. 

And then there are the Lions, who at 7-2 are two losses in front of the Vikings with one of the easiest schedules left in the NFL. Their next four games include two against the Bears, one at home against the Packers, a trip to the Bayou to face the Saints and a date with Denver in Detroit. 

The Lions could be 12-2 and scorching-hot entering the final three weeks of the season when they face the Vikings, Cowboys and Vikings again. And that means that even if the Vikings are a long shot to get the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, they could play a big role in determining whether it's the Eagles, Lions or someone else.