The first half of the season has provided some separations between the haves and the have-nots of the NFL. The Packers are the lone undefeated team in the league at 8-0, followed closely by San Francisco at 7-1. The Niners may be the only team that locks down its playoff position as NFC West champion by Thanksgiving – they have a five-game lead in their division and play five of their final eight games against division opponents that have a combined record of 5-19. Other than them, however, it's going to wild stretch run in both conferences.
As it currently stands, the NFC North would produce not only the team with the best record, but both wild cards. With their win Monday night at Philadelphia, Chicago is tied with Atlanta at 5-3, but the Bears beat the Falcons in Week 1 to give them the tie-breaker advantage.
The turnover in the NFL has been pronounced. Just one of the eight defending division champions is on pace to repeat and that team – the New England Patriots – is currently in a three-way tie atop its division at 5-3. Several teams that had 10 or more losses last year are in the thick of the playoff hunt for the postseason – Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston, Detroit and San Francisco.
Of the Vikings' remaining eight games, the only team not in the middle of a playoff chase is Washington. Of the other seven, the Packers are in first place in the NFC North, Oakland is tied for the lead in the AFC West, the Falcons are a half-game out of first in the NFC South, the Broncos are just one game out of first in the parity-laden AFC West, the Saints are currently in first place in the NFC South and the Vikings still have games with current wild card frontrunners Detroit and Chicago.
The Vikings almost assuredly won't find themselves in the playoffs when the 2011 regular season comes to an end, but they will be playing plenty of playoff-type football between now and then, since almost every game will have direct implications on who makes the playoffs and who doesn't.
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.