Who's On First?

With just two weeks to go in the season, the Giants and Vikings are in sole possession of the two available wild card spots. Both could get locked down as early as Sunday, but a realistic scenario exists that would have both the Giants and the Vikings on the outside of the playoffs looking in.

With just two games remaining in the season, the playoff tie-breakers are coming into much clearer focus. Even so, the Vikings could end up the top wild card, the second wild card or out of the playoff picture completely. Confused? Here are the scenarios as they currently stand.

It's already clear that if the Vikings win their remaining two games and finish 10-6, they're in. They can clinch a spot Sunday if the Saints lose to the Eagles Sunday afternoon and the Vikings defeat the Redskins Sunday night.

If the Vikings should finish 10-6 and the Giants lose to either the Bills or the Patriots, the Vikings would earn the No. 5 seed in the NFC. The same would be true if the Giants and Vikings finish alone at 9-7. Now it gets a little dicey.

If the Giants finish 11-5 or 10-6 and the Vikings and Saints tie at 9-7, the Saints would get the nod because of a better conference record.

If the Vikings beat the Redskins, but lose to Denver in the final week to finish 9-7 and wind up in a three-way tie with the Giants and Saints, the Saints would get the top wild card spot, the Vikings would get the No. 6 seed and the Giants would be eliminated because of a head-to-head loss to the Vikings.

If the Vikings lose to the Redskins and all three teams finish 9-7, the Saints would be the top-ranked of the three teams, followed by the Redskins and the Vikings.

If the Vikings, Redskins, Saints and Giants all finish with 9-7 records, due to the wild-card tie-breaker procedures, the Saints would get the top wild card spot, the Redskins would get the second wild card and the Vikings and Giants – the current wild card leaders – would both be on the outside looking in.

There is no scenario under which the Vikings can make the playoffs if they lose their last two games.

Get it? Good.

* Antoine Winfield (pectoral muscle), Sidney Rice (sprained ankle) and Dontarrious Thomas (groin) all missed practice Wednesday. Each is currently listed as questionable and there is a chance that all three could miss Sunday night's game.
* There are no worries about a blackout for Sunday's game. As of Wednesday afternoon, only 800 tickets remained and, if they weren't sold by 7:15 p.m. tonight, it is expected that KARE-TV, the local NBC affiliate in the Twin Cities, would buy any remaining tickets if there were any. NBC has not carried a Vikings game this season and the chance to have a prime-time audience on the Sunday night before Christmas could be such a financial boon that the station has little choice but to buy up what few (if any) tickets will be left. Just three weeks ago, more than 6,000 tickets remained for the game.
* Coach Brad Childress said he is still reserving judgment on the Dwight Smith police citation for marijuana possession until he gets more information. According to the police report, Smith admitted to smoking marijuana shortly before being cited by police for obstructing traffic with his vehicle, at which time police found marijuana in his vehicle. Childress said he hasn't had that confirmed, so it appears as though Smith will continue to start for the Vikings.
* One of the areas the Vikings have improved sharply on this season is penalties. Last year, the Vikings had a league-high 123 penalties. This season, the team has 76 penalty calls – 32 less after 14 games than they had a year ago – ranking 13th in the league after being dead last in 2006.
* If the Vikings make the playoffs, it will mark their return to the postseason for the first time since 2004 and will also mark the return of DE Ray Edwards, who would be finished with his suspension for a violation of the league's steroid and related substances policy.

Viking Update Top Stories