The Minnesota Vikings could finish 10-6 and miss the playoffs and finish 9-7 and make the playoffs. Those are the scenarios when you don't control your own destiny, and the Vikings have their losses to Seattle and Washington to thank for that.
While the Sunday focus of Vikings fans will be on their game with Houston, there will be reason to follow the ticker on the bottom of the screen to keep other games in mind. To make the process easier, here is who Vikings fans should be cheering for:
New Orleans – The Saints are out of the playoff hunt, but could provide the needed damage to the Cowboys in their playoff chase and take the "they control their own destiny" chatter out of play.
Washington – For the Vikings to have a realistic playoff hope, Washington needs to either win both or lose both games they have remaining. Seeing as the Eagles are the first of those two games, Go Redskins!
Arizona – The Cardinals are a much better team at home and the free falling Bears could use another unexpected beat-down to teach their fans some manners.
Baltimore – The Giants need to lose another game to complicate their defense of the Super Bowl title. The Ravens need to right the ship and they're at home. Vikings fans want the New York Post to have a brutal Eli Manning headline.
San Francisco – The Vikings could still pass Seattle if they lose their final two games. This also has implications for first-round byes. A 49ers win would require the Packers to win their final two games and San Francisco to lose at home to hapless Arizona in Week 17 to give Green Bay a first-round bye.
Tennessee – The Titans' game with the Packers means nothing in the big picture of things, but any time the Packers lose, it's a good thing for purple lovers.
The ideal scenario for the Vikings would actually have Philly beating Washington, but that may be too much to ask. Any scenario in which the Vikings and Redskins would be head-to-head is a loss for Minnesota, but, if all three of the NFC East frontrunners lose and Green Bay loses, the Packers will have nothing to play for in Week 17. They will be locked into the No. 3 seed and might treat the Week 17 matchup with the Vikings like the third preseason game – play the starters for a half and see what happens.
The Vikings need to take care of their own business to maintain their spot in the postseason pool, but the Dirty Half-Dozen (the Redskins, Saints, Cardinals, Ravens, 49ers and Titans) are worth following because they will be the teams that determine the tea-leaf reading at midnight tonight. That's what you get when, regardless of what you do, you don't control your own destiny.
VIKINGS-TEXANS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 24th-ranked offense (4th rushing, 32nd passing) and the 20th-ranked defense (13th rushing, 23rd passing). Houston has the sixth-ranked offense (5th passing, 11th passing) and the seventh-ranked defense (5th rushing, 18th passing).
The Texans are averaging 387 yards a game (245 passing, 142 rushing). The Vikings are averaging 328 yards a game (168 passing, 160 rushing).
Defensively, Houston is allowing 326 yards a game (233 passing, 93 rushing). Minnesota is allowing 358 yards a game (245 passing, 113 rushing.)
The Vikings are fourth in the league in rushing, but lead the NFL in average per rushing attempt at 5.5 yards. The Texans are fifth in overall rushing but 15th in average per rush at 4.2 yards.
Houston is second in the league in giveaway/takeaway ration at plus-15 (28 takeaways, 13 giveaways). Minnesota is tied for 20th at minus-3 (19 takeaways, 22 giveaways).
The Texans are eighth in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 31 of 53 possessions (58.5 percent). The Vikings are 18th at 52.4 percent (22 of 42).
Defensively, the Texans are sixth in the red zone, allowing TDs on 16 of 33 red zone possessions (48.5 percent). The Vikings are tied for 24th at 58.7 percent (27 of 46).
The Texans defense is tied for second in first downs allowed with only 251. The Vikings are 29th, allowing 310 first downs. Only Buffalo, Jacksonville and New Orleans have allowed more.
The Texans offense is 14th in third-down efficiency, converting 77 of 199 attempts (38.7 percent). The Vikings are 24th at 35 percent (63 of 180). The league average is 38.2 percent.
Defensively, Houston is No. 1 on third down, allowing conversions on just 29.1 percent of opponent chances. The Vikings are 30th at 42.7 percent (88 of 206). Perhaps no comparative statistic is more vital on Sunday than this one.
Matt Schaub has two 300-yard passing games. Christian Ponder has one.
The Texans have allowed five 300-yard passers, primarily because they are ahead in so many games. The Vikings have allowed three.
Adrian Peterson has nine 100-yard rushing games, including each of the last eight games. Arian Foster has seven 100-yard rushing games.
The Vikings have allowed four 100-yard rushers. Houston has allowed just two.
Houston has five 100-yard receiving games, all by Andre Johnson. Minnesota has three 100-yard receiving games, all by Percy Harvin.
Houston has allowed seven 100-yard receivers. Minnesota has allowed four.
Schaub is 14th in pass attempts (476), tied for 10th in completions (308), 7th in completion percentage (64.7), 11th in yards (3,555), tied for 8th in touchdowns (22), tied for 14th in interceptions (10) and 9th in passer rating (93.8).
Ponder is 19th in pass attempts (425), 18th in completions (268), 11th in completion percentage (61.1), 26th in yards (2,527), tied for 23rd in touchdowns (14), tied for 19th in interceptions (12) and 25th in passer rating (78.6).
Ponder is 24th in fourth-quarter passer rating 82.8. Schaub is 25th at 82.3.
Schaub is ninth in third-down passer rating at 86.7. Ponder is 25th at 70.9.
Peterson leads the league with 1,812 yards rushing – 433 yards more than his closest competition (Marshawn Lynch). Foster is fourth with 1,313 yards.
Johnson is sixth in the league in receptions with 93. Harvin, who had been MIA since the first week of November, still leads the Vikings with 63 – which still ties him for 26th place, a testament to what kind of season he was dialing up.
Johnson is third in the league with 1,360 yards receiving. Harvin leads the Vikings with 677 yards – 51st in the NFL.
Foster leads the NFL is scoring among non-kickers with 96 points (16 touchdowns). Peterson is fourth with 68 points (11 touchdowns and one 2-point conversion).
Shayne Graham is fourth in the league in scoring with 122 points. Blair Walsh is sixth in the league in scoring with 117 points.
Walsh is fourth in touchbacks with 47. Graham is tied for 20th with 26.
In spite of Calvin Johnson's monster game Saturday night, Peterson still leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,023 (1,812 rushing, 211 receiving). Foster is fifth with 1,493 yards (1,313 rushing, 180 receiving).
Foster has converted 83 first downs, which leads the league. Peterson is tied for second with 79.
Marcus Sherels has had a chance to return 50 punts. He has called a fair catch on 26 of them. Of the 22 he returned, he has gained 201 yards – a 77-yard touchdown and 134 yards on the other 21 returns (6.4 yards).
J.J. Watt is tied for the league lead in sacks with 19.5. Jared Allen is tied for 17th with nine.
Chad Greenway leads the league in tackles with 140.
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.