Playoff drive features many fans

The Vikings haven't secured a playoff spot yet, but they can do that and move up in the seedings with a win. However, there will be just as many teams watching how the Vikings do with hopes of their outcome helping other squads in the NFC. Among those pulling for a Vikings win Sunday is Brad Childress' former boss in Philly.

The Vikings care solely about their own wants and needs when it comes to getting a long-awaited playoff fix. For once, they are in the driver's seat to control their own playoff destiny – needing only one win or one Chicago loss over the next two weeks to secure a playoff spot.

But there is also the carrot dangling in front of them to get the No. 2 seed and earn a playoff bye. They can accomplish that by winning their final two games and having either the Carolina Panthers or New York Giants lose their final two games. The Panthers and Giants play each other in New York this weekend, so barring a tie the Vikings would then need the loser of that game to lose their next game.

During the final week of the season, the Vikings host the Giants and the Panthers travel to New Orleans.

So if the Vikings can beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon (a game that was switched to a 3:15 p.m. Central start), they will have a keen interest in the Sunday night game between the Giants and Panthers.

But just as many teams will be watching the Vikings to see how they fare. Chicago's only chance for the playoffs is if the Vikings lose their final two games and the Bears win their final two.

And then there is Minnesota coach Brad Childress' old team, the Philadelphia Eagles. They need to win their final two games and need the Bucs or Falcons lose one game, so part of their playoff fate is tied up in the Vikings-Falcons game.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid was asked if he would offer any assistance to his former offensive coordinator in game-planning against the Falcons.

"I don't think he needs any help right now," Reid said. "He's on a roll, doing very well. I talk to him every week, so I'm sure we'll talk but I don't think he needs help."

Reid then joked with Philadelphia reporters that maybe Childress should repay Reid for helping Childress become a head coach.

"I hadn't thought about it, but it probably makes a good story. You want me to tell you that he owes me one? Is that what you want?" Reid joked.

So here are the playoff scenarios for several NFC teams this week:

  • The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win or a Chicago loss. They would also clinch with a tie and a Chicago loss or tie.

  • The Falcons can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Vikings and a Tampa Bay loss, plus one of the following scenarios playing out: a Dallas loss; a Dallas tie and Philadelphia loss; a Philadelphia loss and Chicago loss or tie; or a Philadelphia loss.

    Falcons head coach Mike Smith was asked about the possibility of going 11-5 and still missing the playoffs.

    "I haven't really thought about the scenarios. I am looking through my microscope instead of my telescope this week," he said. "We can't concern ourselves with the different scenarios. We just need to go out and play well. At the end of it, the league will tell 12 teams that they will get an opportunity to continue playing. That is how we have to look at it. I don't think we need to concern ourselves with any of the scenarios. There is going to be 16 games played this weekend and the following weekend. I think there are going to be many things that will transpire on the football field that will affect the outcome."

  • The Giants can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Vikings loss or tie. And the Giants can clinch homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs with their own win over Carolina.

  • The Panthers can clinch the NFC South with a win or tie over the Giants, or a Tampa Bay loss or tie and an Atlanta loss or tie. Carolina can clinch a first-round by beating or tying with the Giants. A win over the Giants would also give Carolina homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs. The Panthers could clinch a playoff spot with a Dallas loss or tie or Atlanta loss or tie or Tampa Bay loss or tie. Suffice it to say that the Panthers are big fans of the Vikings with their games against the Falcons and Tampa Bay to close out the season.

  • The Bucs can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Falcons loss along with a Philadelphia loss. Tampa Bay would also be in the playoffs if it won and got an Atlanta loss and Dallas loss or tie.

  • The Dallas Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot with a Dallas win and a few other scenarios playing out in their favor.

    But, while all the scenarios are intriguing, Smith might be right about teams need to stay focused on the microscope – the game in front of them – instead of worrying about scenarios they don't control. For the Vikings it's this simple: Win and they are in; win twice and they might be the No. 2 seed.

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