5 huge games impacting the Vikings' playoff chances

What happens Sunday will have a direct impact on the Vikings.

Week 13 in the NFL is complete for the Vikings aside from the fact that there are five games of mega-importance to them.

Entering Sunday, Minnesota sits in eighth place in the NFC playoff race. But it's not just Washington and Tampa Bay that they're chasing. They also have three teams right on their heels, meaning the outcomes of them could go a long way in determining whether the Vikings are playoff-bound.

Games to keep an eye on

Lions (7-4) at Saints (5-6) – 12 p.m.

Minnesota's best chance to get into the playoffs is still by winning the NFC North outright. Here's how they can do it:

  • Win 4 games and Lions go 2-2 or worse
  • Win 3 games and Lions go 1-3 or worse
  • Win 2 games and Lions go 0-4

As clutch as Detroit has been this season, the Saints at home in the Superdome are a huge challenge. Detroit's defense is mediocre compared to the last three teams to go to New Orleans – Seahawks, Broncos and Rams – and Drew Brees torched them for a combined 878 and 10 touchdowns.

Of course, a Saints win would put them in a tie with the Vikings so Minnesota would have to root against them the rest of the way.

Redskins (6-4-1) at Cardinals (4-6-1) – 3:25 p.m.

Can we get some home cooking from Minnesota natives Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd? This one is super important considering the Redskins are in control of the No. 6 seed right now and they already beat the Vikings this season.

Key stat: Arizona's second ranked passing defense against Washington's red-hot passing offense.

Texans (6-5) at Packers (5-6) – 12 p.m.

The last thing the Vikings need is a tie with the Packers. If Green Bay wins they'll still be in third in the North because the Vikings own the tiebreaker (head-to-head win in Week 2), but their Week 16 Christmas Eve showdown is approaching fast. If the Vikes and Pack finish the season tied there's a good chance Green Bay wins the tiebreaker because of a better conference record (Packers 4-4 against NFC teams, Vikings 4-6 against the NFC).

Buccaneers (6-5) at Chargers (5-6) – 3:25 p.m.

The Bucs are suddenly scary good, allowing just 10.3 points per game over their last three games and racking up 18 takeaways in their last seven games. Tampa Bay is still in the mix to win the NFC South, trailing the Atlanta Falcons (hosting the Chiefs today), by one game. So... go Chiefs, too!

Eagles (5-6) at Bengals (3-7) – 12 p.m.

The Bengals don't have much to play for considering their streak of five straight trips to the postseason will likely end. On top of that their offense is struggling badly without leading receiver A.J. Green. That doesn't bode well against Philly's fifth-ranked passing defense.

This is one game where Vikings fans, many of whom live in North Dakota, should root against former NDSU star Carson Wentz.

Sunday scenarios

If the Vikes want to win the division they'll be rooting for the Saints, Cardinals, Texans, Chargers and Bengals to win. This scenario gives the Vikings more competition for a Wild Card considering the Saints would jump them in the standings and they would then be chasing the Redskins, Bucs and Saints.

If the Vikes are comfortable fighting for a Wild Card, they should root for the Lions to beat the Saints so they only have to chase down the Redskins and Bucs. Minnesota would also want Green Bay and Philly to lose in this scenario.

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