With their less-than-pretty loss to the Packers on Monday night, the Vikings are now locked in as the No. 6 seed in the NFC for the upcoming postseason.
That's better than not being in the tournament at all, as was the case last year. But a win over Green Bay would've given the Vikings a great shot at moving up to the fifth seed and getting a much easier first-round matchup, which is part of why it was such a disappointing defeat at home.
The Vikings are the sixth seed regardless of what happens next week against the Bears. That game means absolutely nothing, so expect to see some starters held out for Minnesota.
But who will be the third seed that hosts the Vikings on wild-card weekend? That's still very much up the air. It's virtually down to two teams, though two more remain alive even if they're highly unlikely.
If the Packers don't lose their minds and lose to the actively tanking Lions next week, they'll secure a first-round bye. That means the Vikings' playoff opponent would be determined by the massive 49ers-Seahawks game for the NFC West title on Sunday Night Football. If the 49ers win (and they've opened as favorites despite the game being in Seattle), they're the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Packers are No. 2, and the Vikings would travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints.
If the Seahawks win, they'd jump up to the No. 3 seed and host the Vikings. They can't pass the Saints for a first-round bye because the Saints have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So, in all likelihood, it's the Saints or Seahawks in round one for the Vikings. Of the two, the Seahawks seem like the far more beatable opponent. The Saints' Drew Brees-Michael Thomas duo would pose a lot of problems for the struggling Vikings cornerbacks, while the Vikings nearly won in Seattle less than a month ago and the Seahawks have since lost Chris Carson and Duane Brown for the season.
Also, if one dares to look ahead, the Seahawks beating the 49ers next week would set up a theoretically easier divisional round game for the Vikings. The No. 1 seed in that scenario would be the Packers. If the Vikings could escape Seattle with a win, they'd head to Lambeau Field in round two. There's an old saying that it's hard to beat a team three times.
A Seattle-Green Bay path to the NFC Championship Game sounds easier than the New Orleans-San Francisco path. Vikings fans may want to root for Marshawn Lynch (he's back!) and Seattle in that NFC West showdown on Sunday night.
Just for the sake of it, let's get weird for a second. If the Packers handle the Lions, the Saints take care of the similarly awful Panthers, and the 49ers and Seahawks TIE, the Vikings would travel to San Francisco to open the playoffs.
If the Packers somehow choked against the Lions, and the Saints beat the Panthers, the Packers would fall to the third seed and host the Vikings. But again, the Packers have a first-round bye and potential home field advantage at stake, and the Lions have won literally one game since September 22nd.
If the Saints lost to the Panthers (who have lost seven in a row), the Vikings' scenarios would go back to the expected two of Saints or Seahawks based on the night game.