The bad news is that the Minnesota Vikings have a brutal schedule to close out this season. The good news is that they are facing the teams they need to beat to secure a playoff spot.
The Vikings play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field this Sunday, then they get the Chicago Bears at home, followed by the St Louis Rams and Houston Texans on the road, and finally the Packers again at home to close out the year.
Minnesota is currently just two games out of first place in the NFC North and one game out of the Wild Card. With the Bears losing six starters to injury this week and the Packers reeling after a loss to the New York Giants, the Vikings have a path to the playoffs–although that path is very difficult indeed.
To start, the Vikings need a win over the Packers this week. If they lose, they will be two games back with four to play, and at that point they will likely have too much to overcome. Then, if they defeat the banged up Bears at home, they could find themselves tied for either the division or the Wild Card.
Next, the Vikings play a St Louis team that does not have much to play for anymore this season, followed by the Texans, who could have their playoff spot locked up by the time they face off against the Vikings and maybe sitting some of their starters.
Finally, it could all come down to the week 17 matchup vs the Packers at Mall of America Field. The Vikings could be in a position to sneak into the Wild Card or possibly even take the division, if the Packers and Bears stumble with their remaining schedule. It is certainly a difficult road ahead and if they drop any of their games to Green Bay or Chicago, they could drop out of the race in a hurry.
However, as we have seen in recent years, teams that get hot at the end of the year can make surprising runs to the playoffs.
The Vikings have now lost three of their last four games, but a victory over the rival Packers this Sunday might just kick off a run to the postseason.