NFC Playoff Teams Suddenly Struggling as Vikings Surge

Photo: Stephen Maturen - Getty Images

After two straight NFC North victories, the Minnesota Vikings fell asleep Sunday night dreaming of playoff games. Dalvin Cook is running like the best back in the world and Mike Zimmer is more than happy to ride his coattails back into postseason conversations.

Last week, we went over the Vikings’ upcoming schedule. “Winnable” is the word for November. If this team hits a hot streak and they rack up some victories over the next few weeks… how quickly can the purple climb back into the NFC postseason race and who do they have to jump over?

NFC Overview

At 3-5, Minnesota would occupy the NFC’s 10th seed if the 2020 season ended today. That would leave them 3 spots short of a playoff berth. The NFL and NFLPA agreed to one additional wild card team for each conference during the 2020 playoffs (14 teams total). That means #7 is the goal. If you can finish the season as the 7-seed or better, you’re in the dance.

1New Orleans Saints6-2W5
2Seattle Seahawks6-2L1
3Green Bay Packers6-2W1
4Philadelphia Eagles3-4-1W2
5Tampa Bay Buccaneers6-3L1
6Arizona Cardinals5-3L1
7Los Angeles Rams5-3L1
8Chicago Bears5-4L3
9San Francisco 49ers4-5L2
10Minnesota Vikings3-5W2
11Detroit Lions3-5L2
12Atlanta Falcons3-6W2

Every team between the Minnesota Vikings and a playoff spot, are entering week 10 on a losing streak. Combined, the 5 teams ahead of the Vikings in the NFC playoff standings have lost 8-straight games.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, let’s dissect these teams a bit deeper.

#9 Seed: San Francisco 49ers

Niner fans aren’t sure if Jimmy Garoppolo is the future of their franchise but since his injury, they’ve lost two straight and definitely regressed. So let’s look past the Kyle Shanahan + Kirk Cousins rumors floating around the bay area again, for just a moment.

The 49ers are in big trouble. Jimmy G is out for at least another month and they just got smoked by a revengeful Green Bay team today. Next week won’t get any easier. They’ll head to the Superdome to do battle with the New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees and Co just finished hanging a 38-3 W on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football in week 9.

#8: Chicago Bears

The Bears suck. There, I said it.

They’ve lost three straight games and the offensive struggle is real. Chicago hasn’t had a 100-yard game on the ground since week 3. In those 5 games, the Bears are averaging 2.9 yards per carry on 95 attempts, totaling a whopping 271 yards.

Passing isn’t much better. The Trubisky/Foles combo is averaging 222 yards per game, totalling 5 TD’s and 6 INT’s for a 75.8 QB Rating. They’ve topped 20 points one time during this 5-game stretch of no offense (23 points vs Saints in wk 8).

The Vikings will have their chance to stomp Chicago down the NFC playoff ladder on Monday night. They’ll play the Bears at Soldier Field and exercising road demons will be the goal.

#7: Los Angeles Rams

The Rams currently hold the last playoff spot in the NFC and they’re coming off of their bye week. Leading into that bye, they lost to the Dolphins 28-17. Unlike Sean McVay teams of the last few years, this LA Rams team has struggled to produce points consistently.

They mustered 24 vs the Bears two weeks ago but sandwiched that game with 17 vs the Dophins and 16 vs the 49ers.

The schedule won’t do them any favors. The Rams come out of the bye next weekend vs the Seahawks. That game will follow with the Bucs, 49ers and Cardinals. All four of those teams are currently in the playoffs, if the season ended today.

#6: Arizona Cardinals

I’m not going to spend as much time on these last couple teams because the Vikings would already be in the playoffs, should they climb this far up the standings.

The Cardinals are part of the unpredictable NFC West, a division that holds three playoff teams right now and one more (SF) in the race. Outside of Russell Wilson though, the QB talent is young and unproven. How much can these West Division rivals beat each other up, going forward? That’s the question that intrigues me.

#5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Everything was looking great for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay ex-Gophers, until the Saints dropped into town on Sunday night and destroyed them on national TV.

Who knows what Tampa Bay is, at this point. Never doubt Tom Brady come playoff time, though.

Why Not Us… Why Not Now?

All of the pieces are in place for a surprise Minnesota Vikings playoff run… but they still have to go out and do it on the field. As has been proven to us throughout sports history, games are decided on the field.

If the Vikings don’t come out and take care of their own business, then it doesn’t matter how the teams ahead of them are doing.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan