In an unexpectedly lopsided affair, the Minnesota Vikings improved to 9-6 on the season with a 23-6 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. Although the loss was painful for the Texans’ campaign for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Vikings’ win keeps them in the hunt for a postseason appearance only a year after finishing 3-13.
Heading into the week, the Vikings had a flimsy grasp on the No. 6 seed in the NFC. With the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants all hot on their trail, they needed a win against the Texans in the biggest of ways.
With their ninth win of the season now under their belts, the Vikings will have to come away with another victory in Week 17 against the Green Bay Packers to have any hopes of securing a playoff berth.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, they don’t control their fate. In order for the Vikings to make the playoffs, they’ll need some help along the way. A loss by each of the aforementioned chasers (Bears, Cowboys, Giants) and a Week 17 win, though, should seal a postseason appearance for the purple and gold. Chances are looking better and better by the minute that the Vikings could find themselves still playing in January despite their mid-season slump.
As for the Texans, what seemed like a sure bet for the No. 1 seed in the AFC is suddenly slipping through their fingers. Now standing at 12-3, Houston will have to win in Week 17 against the Indianapolis Colts in order to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they drop next week’s game against Andrew Luck and Co., though, there’s a good chance that the surging Denver Broncos could claim their spot atop the AFC.
If the Texans drop their final game of the season, they could also be in jeopardy of losing their first-round bye. The New England Patriots are hot on their trail at 11-4, and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker if they both ended the season at 12-4.
The last couple of weeks in the NFL season are always the most exciting as the playoff picture comes into focus. Expect a few more shuffles before all is said and done.