The numbness of Sunday’s loss is starting to wear off on Minnesota Vikings fans. The reality is now coming back into focus.
It may be time to come off the ledge. All is not lost, it’s just been scrambled.
When both the Vikings and Packers were 6-2, little was made of the technical advantage the Vikings had based on divisional record as the second tie-breaker. Two weeks later, both teams are 7-3, but now the chess pieces are differently dispersed and the Vikings lost their queen to Green Bay.
But, as things currently stand, technically the Vikings still control their own destiny. It’s up to casual observers to determine if the loss to Green Bay turns out to be bigger than the loss to San Francisco.
The key to final six games is how many of them are critical. Wins and losses against the AFC technically count in the standings, but when it comes to breaking ties, those are irrelevant. You beat San Diego? Good for you!
Every win within the division and the conference carrries a lot more weight. When NFC teams are talking playoffs, a loss to Denver means less than a loss to Detroit. The more games NFC teams play against the AFC can help pad their resume, but not make it.
Only five teams in the NFC are going to play all six of their remaining games against conference opponents. Everybody but Green Bay in the NFC North is done with the AFC.
The other two? It would appear that the teams who can make the most of their final six games are the Vikings, Panthers and Cardinals.
Survive and advance.
Non-conference wins will count in the final total of wins NFC teams end up with. When it comes to breaking down who is actually the best within the conference, Minnesota, Arizona and Carolina – and, to a much lesser extent, the Bears and Lions – can control their own destiny.
Every win is a badge of honor. Every loss is a dagger.
Right now, things appear bleak for Vikings fans feeling the kid-brother sting of Sunday’s home loss. Rightly so. It hurt the Vikings’ chances.
But the road to playing football beyond Jan. 3 is going to be determined by the next six weeks, not the last 11 weeks. As it stands as we speak, the Panthers and Cards can determine if their playoff games will be played in front of their home fans.
So can the Vikings.
The past is prologue. Now it’s time to see what the 2015 Vikings can accomplish. Right now, they can’t be touched if they win. The losses will determine their fate and, thanks to scheduling, each “W” and “L” from here on through is doubly important.