Week 12 NFL Preview, Viewing Guide For Vikings Fans

Will Ragatz

The Vikings don't play this weekend, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of NFL action that will directly impact their playoff pursuit. Let's run through the games you should be watching in Week 12, along with the teams you should be rooting for in each one.

As a reminder, this is what the NFC playoff picture looks like right now.

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12 p.m. CT: Panthers (5-5) at Saints (8-2)

One of the few relatively intriguing games of the early slate is this NFC South battle in New Orleans, in which the Panthers desperately need a win to keep their tiny playoff dreams alive (FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 4 percent chance to reach the postseason). Putting up an absolute dud at home against the Falcons last week all but ended their once-promising season. Kyle Allen has had his moments this year, but his four interceptions last week likely had Panthers fans longing for a healthy Cam Newton.

The Saints are 10-point favorites, and are looking to build on an impressive offensive showing against the Buccaneers last week in Drew Brees's second game back from injury. They have a real chance to push for a first-round bye in the playoffs, especially if they can win this game and beat the Falcons on Thanksgiving.

Vikings rooting interest: Panthers. There are two ways to look at this game from a Vikings perspective. You could hope the Saints win, which would eliminate any chance of the Panthers becoming a threat to the Vikings' wild-card spot. However, I think you should cheer for the Panthers. Even if they win this game, they're unlikely to become a player in the wild-card conversation. A Saints loss would drop them to 8-3, and if the Vikings can overtake the Packers in the NFC North, they could be competing with the Saints for a top-two seed.

12 p.m. CT: Seahawks (8-2) at Eagles (5-5)

This is the best game of the noon slate and it isn't particularly close. Despite having won six of their last seven games, the Seahawks are one-point underdogs as they head to Philly to take on the Eagles. Both teams could really use this win, as they each trail their current division leader (the 49ers and Cowboys, respectively) by a game.

For the Seahawks, a loss would make it very difficult to catch the Niners in the NFC West. That would likely mean a scary first-round trip to Dallas or Philly. For the Eagles, who don't have a wild-card spot to fall back on, a loss would deal a major blow to their chances of making the playoffs at all.

Vikings rooting interest: Seahawks. Once again, you could go either way here. I'm taking the opposite approach for this game. I think the Vikings should want the Eagles to be dead and buried, because their easy schedule the rest of the way (they play the Dolphins, the Redskins, and twice against the Giants) makes it possible to imagine them running the table and entering the wild-card race. Also, the Vikings control their own destiny in any seeding race against the Seahawks. Just beat them next Monday night.

3:25 p.m. CT: Cowboys (6-4) at Patriots (9-1)

There are only two late-afternoon games, and one of them is Jaguars-Titans. The whole country's eyes will be on FOX for this matchup between the two most valuable franchises in the NFL. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys can make a statement – and boost their playoff chances – by going into Foxborough and beating the mighty Pats. This will be the biggest test yet for Tom Brady and the Patriots, who will likely be without receivers Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. The matchup between the league's top offense and the league's top defense should be fascinating.

Vikings rooting interest: Patriots. This one is obvious. While it's never fun to root for the Pats, Vikings fans should want as many NFC contenders to lose as possible during their bye week.

7:20 p.m. CT: Packers (8-2) at 49ers (9-1)

This is going to be huge. The Packers are out west for a Sunday Night Football clash with the Niners in a game that will have major implications on the playoff picture. The team that wins this game will have taken a big step towards winning their division, and the team that loses will start to see the Vikings or Seahawks in the rearview mirror. Aaron Rodgers vs. Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time should be a lot of fun to watch, but this game likely comes down to which defense makes more plays.

Vikings rooting interest: Do I even have to say it? 49ers. Vikings fans need to become huge Niners fans this weekend. If the Packers win, the Vikings would have a 25 percent chance to win the NFC North (per FiveThirtyEight). If the Niners win, that rises to 47 percent. That's a big-time swing. Winning the division means the Vikings would get to play their first playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium, where they have one of the bigger home-field advantages in the league.

7:15 p.m. CT Monday: Ravens (8-2) at Rams (6-4)

This is just the second primetime game of the year for MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson, who is must-see TV every time he takes the field. Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and the rest of the Rams' defense will have their hands full trying to contain Jackson on Monday night. With no realistic chance to catch the Seahawks and Niners in their division, the Rams are desperately in need of a win just to hang around in the wild-card hunt. They could pull to within a single game of the Vikings with a victory, but a loss would hurt.

Vikings rooting interest: Ravens. This is another obvious one. Vikings fans, Jackson is your favorite quarterback on Monday night. He's a lot of fun. Hopefully, Jackson and the Ravens can knock off the defending NFC Champs in LA, giving the Vikings some breathing room in the second wild-card spot.

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