It's a bit premature to be talking about the roadmap to the Super Bowl for a team that still hasn't clinched a playoff spot, but it's fun so we're going to do it anyway with the Vikings.
Minnesota can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Bears this Sunday or with a loss or tie by the Eagles.
It'll be the 6-seed for the Vikings with a win and a Seattle victory or Arizona, but the Vikings grab the 5-seed with a win and a Seattle loss. But it's a pretty safe bet that the Seahawks, who are favored by 14 points, will beat the Cardinals and secure the 5-seed.
So let's say the Vikings do get in. What's the road to the Super Bowl look like?
For starters, it's extremely difficult because not only are the Saints, Rams, Bears, Cowboys and Seahawks a combined 34-6 at home this season, but four of Minnesota's six losses are at the hands of the Saints, Rams, Bears and Seahawks. That's not a good sign.
Alas, the roadmaps....
Roadmap as the 6-seed
- Wild Card: #6 Vikings at #3 Bears
- Divisional: #6 Vikings at #1 Saints
- Championship: #6 Vikings at #2 Rams, #4 Cowboys or #5 Seahawks
This one is simple. If the Vikings enter the playoffs as the 6-seed they're almost guaranteed to play at Chicago in the first round. The only way they don't is if they lose to Chicago this week, Philly loses at Washington and the Rams lose at home to the 49ers. If all of that happens, the Vikings would play at the Rams in the first round.
But if they enter postseason play as the 6-seed and face Chicago in the first round and win, they automatically advance to play the Saints at the Superdome in the Divisional Round. Win that and they'd play on the road against whoever is left between the Rams, Cowboy and Seahawks.
Roadmap as the 5-seed
- Wild Card: #5 Vikings at #4 Cowboys
- Divisional: #5 Vikings at #1 Saints or #2 Rams
- Championship: #5 Vikings at #1 Saints, #2 Rams, #3 Bears or at home against #6 Seahawks
The team that enters the playoffs as the 5-seed is guaranteed to play at Dallas in the opening round. A win in Dallas would get Minnesota a road date with the Saints unless the Seahawks, as the 6-seed, were to upset the Bears in the first round, which would send Minnesota to L.A. and the Seahawks to New Orleans.
The Vikings could actually host the NFC title game if the Seahawks were to beat the Bears in the first round and upset the Saints in the second round, which would set up a Vikings-Seahawks conference championship at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Anything is possible, especially when the Vikings own the top-scoring defense in the NFL since Week 5, but their road to the Super Bowl, if they make the playoffs, will be incredibly difficult.