The Saints' loss Saturday night offered hope that the Vikings can still get the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They would need to win out and get help from a losing team left on New Orleans' schedule. We also go deep inside the statistical comparisons between the Vikings and Panthers.
The Saints' march to perfection is over and the Vikings still have an opportunity to gain the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. They will still need help, however.
The New Orleans Saints
had survived close games the last two weeks to lesser teams – including an overtime win over the Washington Redskins
thanks to a missed fourth-quarter chip-shot field goal by Shawn Shuisam that likely would have sealed a Saints loss two weeks ago – but this time the Cowboys persevered. Nick Folk
missed his opportunity late in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a commanding 10-point lead in the final minutes, but the Dallas defense held and preserved for a 24-17 win.
At 13-1, the Saints would have only a one-game lead over the Vikings if Minnesota (11-2) can beat the Carolina Panthers
on the road Sunday night. If the Vikings beat Carolina, both Minnesota and New Orleans would be 9-1 in the conference, but the Saints would have to lose to either Tampa Bay (1-12) or Carolina (5-8) in the final two weeks of the season and the Vikings would have to go undefeated for them to secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The only other scenario for the Vikings to get the top seed is the Saints losing both of their final two games and the Vikings going 2-1 in their final three games.
If the Saints and Vikings both finish 14-2, the Vikings would have the edge on the top seed because the Saints would then have two losses in the NFC and the Vikings would only have one conference loss (to Arizona). Conference record is the top applicable tie-breaker between the two teams.
The Saints' Saturday night loss may not get the Vikings to the top seed, but it showed that the Saints are beatable at home.
VIKINGS-PANTHERS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the league's 6th-rated offense (11th rushing, 11th passing) and the 6th-ranked defense (4th rushing, 16th passing). The Panthers have the 21st-ranked offense (4th rushing, 28th passing) and are tied for 15th on defense (26th rushing, 6th passing).
The Vikings offense is averaging 379 yards a game (254 passing, 125 rushing). The Carolina offense is averaging 319.8 yards a game (169.8 passing, 149.9 rushing).
The Vikings defense is averaging 303.6 yards a game (216.7 passing, 86.9 rushing). The Panthers are allowing 329.7 yards a game (192.4 passing, 137.3 rushing).
Although the Vikings are currently fourth in run defense, they are getting closer to leading the league for the fourth straight year. They trail Pittsburgh by 26 yards, Green Bay by 25 yards, and Cincinnati by seven yards.
The Vikings' red zone offense is fourth in the league at 60 percent touchdowns scored (33 touchdowns in 55 possessions). The Panthers are 24th at 46.9 percent (15 touchdowns on 32 possessions).
The Vikings defense is second in the red zone, allowing just 12 touchdowns on 33 opponent possessions (36.4 percent) and trail only the Redskins, who are at a blistering 29 percent (nine touchdowns in 31 possessions). The Panthers are 15th at 51.2 percent (22 touchdowns on 43 possessions).
The Vikings offense is third in the league in third-down conversions, making good on 48.1 percent of their chances (90 of 187). They trail only Indianapolis and Miami. The Panthers are 23rd in third-down conversions, at just 35.3 percent (61 of 173). The league average is 38.3 percent.
The Vikings defense is third in the league in stopping opponents on third down, allowing them to convert at a rate of just 34.2 percent (55 of 161). The Panthers are 19th at 38.5 percent (62 of 161).
The Vikings offense is first in the league in interception percentage on offense. The Panthers are 29th in that category.
The Vikings are second in points scored, averaging 30 points a game. The Panthers are 25th in points scored.
The Vikings are second in the league in sacks per pass play defensively. The Panthers are struggling at 21st.
In third-down defense, the Vikings are third. They trail only Miami and the New York Jets.
The Vikings are tied for fifth in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-7 (21 takeaways, 14 giveaways). The Panthers are tied for 20th at minus-3 (28 takeaways, 31 giveaways).
Only San Diego (13) has fewer giveaways than the Vikings.
The average starting field position for NFL teams following a kickoff is the 26.1-yard line. The Vikings lead the league with an average starting position of the 31.6-yard line. The Panthers are 26th with an average starting point of the 24.7-yard line.
Brett Favre has four 300-yard passing days this season, while Jake Delhomme has two. Matt Moore has none. Both teams have allowed two 300-yard passers.
The Vikings have four 100-yard receiving games this year – three from Sidney Rice and one from Percy Harvin. The Panthers have just one from Steve Smith. The Vikings have allowed four 100-yard receivers, while the Panthers have surrendered just two.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined for five 100-yard rushing games – Williams with four and Stewart with one. Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard games for the Vikings. The Panthers have allowed three 100-yard rushers, while the Vikings defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in more than two years.
Favre remains near the top in most passing categories. He is tied for seventh in attempts (433), fifth in completions (295), fourth in completion percentage (68.1), ninth in yards (3,341), third in touchdowns (27), second in TD percentage (6.2), tied for third in interceptions (6), first in interception percentage (1.4) and second in passer rating at 106.0.
Moore hasn't played enough this season to qualify for many quarterback rankings.
Favre has the league's best passer rating in the fourth quarter at 117.9.
Favre is sixth in third-down passer rating at 100.2.
Peterson is third in the league in rushing with 1,200 yards – 79 yards behind Steven Jackson of the Rams and 426 behind league Chris Johnson of Tennessee. Williams is sixth with 1,104 yards.
Peterson has converted 13 of 15 third-and-1 runs this season – both of which are most in the league. Stewart leads the Panthers, having converted six of eight chances.
Sidney Rice is tied for 16th in the league in receptions with 67. Steve Smith leads the Panthers with 51, which is tied for 31st place. Percy Harvin is tied for 43rd with 48 catches and Bernard Berrian is 47th with 47 receptions.
Rice is fifth in the league in receiving yards with 1,075. Smith is 28th with 765 yards. Harvin is tied for 39th with 681 yards.
Harvin and Chester Taylor are tied for seventh in the league in third-down receptions with 23 each. Rice is tied for 17th with 18. Muhsin Muhammad leads the Panthers with 11, which is only good enough to tie for 70th place in the league.
Peterson entered the week tied for the league in touchdowns with 14, but Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville added two to his total Thursday night against the Colts. Visanthe Shiancoe is tied for 16th with nine touchdowns. Harvin is tied for 22nd with eight TDs. Both Williams and Stewart have scored seven touchdowns.
Ryan Longwell is fourth in the league in scoring with 111 points. John Kasay of the Panthers is 23rd with 73 points.
Peterson is fourth in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,519 (1,200 rushing, 319 receiving) – which is 498 yards behind Johnson of Tennessee. Williams is sixth with 1,353 yards (1,104 rushing, 249 receiving). Rice is 19th in the league with 1,075 yards (all receiving).
Peterson remains first in the league in first downs gained with 75 (62 rushing, 13 receiving). Williams is tied for sixth with 65 (51 rushing, 14 receiving).
Darius Reynaud is sixth in the league in punt return average at 11.2 yards. Carolina rookie Captain Munnerlyn (you have to love that name!) is ninth with a 10.6-yard average.
Harvin is second in the league in kickoff returns with a 29.0-yard average. No Panther has enough returns to qualify among the league leaders.
Jared Allen is second in the league in sacks with 12.5. Julius Peppers of the Panthers is 12th with eight. Ray Edwards is tied for 21st with 6.5 and Kevin Williams is tied for 27th with six.
Chad Greenway is tied for second in the league in defensive fumble recoveries with three, behind only Osi Umenyiora of the Giants.