The Minnesota Vikings have four games left in the regular season but with the way the NFC playoff picture has turned out, the playoffs might as well start next week in Chicago.
After Sunday's action, the Vikings are deadlocked in a five-way tie for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC. While other teams could join Minnesota in this foray, they'll need to win by any means necessary to get into the postseason.
The top of the playoff picture appears locked in as all four division leaders have healthy leads in their division. If Arizona can defeat Los Angeles on Monday night, they'll have the inside track to the top seed but that is of no interest to the Vikings.
Instead, they're looking a little lower where they'll need to take care of their own business plus get some help in order to make the playoffs.
5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
- Monday vs. Arizona (10-2)
- Dec. 19 vs. Seattle (5-8)
- Dec. 26 vs. Vikings (6-7)
- Jan. 2 at Baltimore (8-5)
- Jan. 9 vs. San Francisco (7-6)
The Rams have a good chance to separate themselves from this mess and jump into the NFC West title conversation with a win over the Cardinals on Monday night.
If they come up short, they'll still be in good position to make the playoffs. But the matchup with the Vikings could be big in terms of a head-to-head tiebreaker. With three winning teams in their next five games, they'll need to pick up some key victories to make the cut.
6. San Francisco (7-6)
- Dec. 19 vs. Atlanta (6-7)
- Dec. 23 vs. Tennessee (9-4)
- Jan. 2 vs. Houston (2-11)
- Jan. 9 at Rams (8-4)
The 49ers' overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was huge as it helped them avoid the log jam for the final seed. San Francisco owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings and a victory over Atlanta could put them in position to clinch a playoff spot before heading to Los Angeles in the season finale.
7. Washington (6-7)
- Dec. 19 at Philadelphia (6-7)
- Dec. 26 at Dallas (9-4)
- Jan. 2 vs. Philadelphia (6-7)
- Jan. 9 at New York Giants (4-8)
Washington stands atop of the race for the final playoff seed thanks to their 5-3 record in the NFC. While the rest of their schedule is within the conference, it's also in the NFC East, which may be one of the worst divisions in football.
8. Vikings (6-7)
- Dec. 20 at Chicago (4-9)
- Dec. 26 vs. Los Angeles (8-4)
- Jan. 2 at Green Bay (10-3)
- Jan. 9 vs. Chicago (4-9)
With a conference record of 4-4, the Vikings will have ground to make up to get into the playoffs. The bad news is their schedule is tough beginning with a trip to Soldier Field, where the Vikings have gone 5-15 since 2000. A home game against the Rams and a trip to Green Bay are also intimidating and could make the finale against the Bears interesting.
9. Philadelphia (6-7)
- Dec. 19 vs. Washington (6-7)
- Dec. 26 vs. New York Giants (4-8)
- Jan. 2 at Washington (6-7)
- Jan. 9 vs. Dallas (9-4)
Like Washington, the Eagles will stay within the division for their final four games. With two games against Washington the Eagles not only have a chance to catch the leader but bolster their conference record (4-4) with three games at home.
10. Atlanta (6-7)
- Dec. 19 at San Francisco (7-6)
- Dec. 26 vs. Detroit (1-12-1)
- Jan. 2 at Buffalo (7-6)
- Jan. 9 vs. Saints (6-7)
The Falcons may have the hardest schedule of this group and their 3-6 conference record means they'll probably have to run the table to get in.
11. New Orleans (6-7)
- Dec. 19 at Tampa Bay (10-3)
- Dec. 27 vs. Miami (6-7)
- Jan. 2 vs. Carolina (5-8)
- Jan. 9 vs. Atlanta (6-7)
The Saints dropped the first meeting with the Falcons but have a chance to avenge that loss in the season finale. The only question is if it will matter after a trip to Tampa Bay next week.