The NFL, by its nature, is a revisionist world in which teams are viewed as bums or kings depending on what they did the previous week. Depending on your point of view, Week 12 of the NFL season was either a squandered opportunity for the Vikings or a huge break for their playoff chances.
If you live in the "glass half empty" world, the Vikings squandered a huge opportunity Sunday. Had the Vikings beaten the Bears yesterday, they would have woken up this morning in first place in the NFC North. They would have been in a three-way tie with the Packers and Bears and, by virtue of division record (which would have been 3-0), the Vikings would have been atop the division due to tie-breakers.
For those living in the "glass half full" world, Sunday's loss was part of a perfect storm that still leaves them in control of taking care of their own business. It's been clear that at least one if not both of the wild card teams in the NFC would come from the NFC North. Despite its loss to the Giants, Green Bay still has a firm hand on one of those two wild card spots and still have another game with the Bears to potentially reclaim their spot atop the NFC North. It's safe to assume that, barring a significant collapse, both the Bears and Packers will get their invitation to the postseason. But, for those teams like the Vikings fighting for the final playoff spot, Sunday will be viewed as squandered opportunities everywhere.
The Seattle Seahawks, currently the No. 6 seed in the playoff chase, lost to Miami to drop to 6-5. Tampa Bay, which also has the tie-breaker edge on the Vikings, lost at home to Atlanta to drop to 6-5 as well. Dallas, which was trying to get back into the playoff hunt, lost at home on Thanksgiving Day to the Redskins to drop to 5-6 and put them technically behind Washington, which is also 5-6. New Orleans, which had made up for a 0-4 start to get back to .500, lost at home to San Francisco to fall to 5-6.
The Vikings had a chance to greatly improve their playoff standing Sunday. Obviously, they didn't accomplish that. But, when you consider what happened around the league as Week 12 unfolded, things could have been much worse. Every other team that was in the best position to hurt the Vikings' playoff chances lost. Not just one team, but five. As bad as the Vikings feel coming off their loss to Chicago, the reality is that things could have been much worse and their loss didn't dim their playoff chances as much as their division standings may indicate.
They are still technically the No. 8 seed in a six-team NFC format – but they didn't drop their standing any further.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.