Vikings should be thankful for NFC South

The Vikings will play their final NFC South team on Sunday, the only one that didn’t lose this weekend … because Carolina didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw that makes a playoff team a playoff team. The 12th Man helped Seattle be the most embarrassing team to get their ticket punched to the playoffs four years ago with an unworthy postseason appearance thanks to a record of 7-9.

It was an abomination. As Chicken Little was wont to say, the sky was falling. The postseason should be seeded by record.

A similar refrain is being spouted out this season over what has been a brutal NFC South Division.

If the Vikings were in the NFC South, they would be heading to practice Wednesday in first place. Nobody in that division has been able to conquer Atlanta.

The Vikings did.

So has everyone else. All four of the Falcons’ wins have come against divisional opponents. All seven losses are outside the division.

How bad are things down south? Carolina, the Vikings’ opponent Sunday, gained ground in the anemic battle to be the last man standing in this Walking Dead saga.

The Panthers didn’t play.

The other three did.

Carolina gained ground.

It should come as no surprise that the last place team in the AFC North has a record of 7-4. They’ve been the jackals feeding off the carcass. Their combined record against the NFC South is 10-1-1. Pittsburgh losing at home to Tampa Bay is the shame of the AFC North.

2014 is the latest incarnation of the cyclical nature of the NFL regenerating itself. That heinous 7-9 Seattle team that limped its way into the playoffs in 2010? That team dethroned the defending champion Saints. The 12th Man got its receipt.

Two years later, a team from the ugly NFC West would represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Three years later, Seattle would win it all and Arizona would win 10 games and miss the playoffs.

This year, there may not be enough playoff spots for the teams in the NFC West for all three to make it. They have become the SEC of the NFL. The NFC South is Hobo Junction.

As the Vikings square off with the bye-rested Panthers Sunday, about the only thing more certain than Mike Zimmer dialing up a couple opportunities for Captain Munnerlyn to light up Cam Newton is that the NFC South is eminently beatable. Much less at home.

Three years from now, we may well see the South rise again. But, for now, the teams there are chum in the water. They’ve played seven divisional games, resulting in a record of 7-7. In the remaining 30 games, they have a combined record of 6-23-1. In local terms, they’re Vanderbilt.

On Sunday, a 4-7 team is going to play a 3-7-1 team. The 4-7 team has pride to play for. The 3-7-1 road team can realistically move into first place in its division with a win.

Ron Rivera has no fear of Black Friday. Black Monday? That’s another story. Heads are going to roll in the NFC South at season’s end. But for now, hope springs. The Vikings have a chance to impact that process. Considering the South’s track record, the Vikings should have something to be thankful for on Sunday.

Three or four years from now, the NFC South may be dominant. In the short-term, the pickings look good.

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