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:
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."
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.