The NFC playoff teams have been set, but the seedings are far from determined. The Vikings could finish anywhere from first to fourth, depending on how they do over the next seven days. Plus, we go deep inside the rankings and numbers for a statistical comparison between the Vikings and Bears.
If you had scripted scenarios for the Vikings to watch the outcome of other games Sunday, there perhaps wasn't a worse way for things to fall. But, at the same time, if the goal is to get the No. 1 seed, they couldn't have fallen better.
Confused? You're not alone. While tonight's game will minimize the alternatives by one – for better or worse – as you read this we know the six NFC playoff teams, but don't know where any of them are going to be seeded.
With Dallas' 17-0 win over the Redskins Sunday night, all six playoff teams are set. The Saints, Vikings and Cardinals have all won their divisions. Next week's game between the Eagles and Cowboys game will be for the NFC East championship and the loser will get a wild card spot, along with the Packers.
One thing that will be decided is whether the Saints have the top seed or not. If the Vikings lose to the Bears, the Saints lock down the No. 1 seed and the Vikings would be back into the thick of the Nos. 2-4 seedings. If, however, the Vikings beat the Bears, they can finish no worse than the No. 3 seed.
With the Saints' unlikely loss to Tampa Bay Sunday, if they lose to the Panthers next week – a team that has gashed the Vikings and Giants the last two weeks – if the Vikings win their final two games, they would lock down the No. 1 seed. But, this is where it gets tricky.
Even if the Vikings win tonight, if they lose next Sunday against the Giants and the Eagles beat Dallas, Philadelphia gets the No. 2 seed and the Vikings get the No. 3 seed. If the Vikings lose both their remaining games and Dallas and Arizona win their home finales against the Eagles and Packers, respectively, the Vikings would fall to the No. 4 seed and play the Eagles at home in two weeks.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that, unlike the AFC, all six spots have been determined, but none of the seedings have been finalized. That will change – either a little or lot – tonight, but one thing is guaranteed. Every playoff team in the NFC is going to have to play all their starters in Week 17 because their games will all have significance in the playoff seeding procedure. For a team like the Vikings, it could potentially still be anywhere from home-field advantage throughout the playoffs to hosting Philly, Dallas or Green Bay in two weeks.
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 9th-ranked offense in the league (13th rushing, 12th passing) and the 8th ranked defense (4th rushing, 16th passing). The Bears have the 24th-rated offense (29th rushing, 19th passing) and the 16th-ranked defense (25th rushing, 7th passing).
Those rushing stats for the Bears speak volumes to their struggles this year, being among the worst in the league in both running the ball and stopping the run of defense.
Neither team has been effective at consistently running the ball. The Vikings are 20th in the league in average gain per rush (4.1 yards). The Bears are 28th (3.9 yards).
The Vikings are fifth in the league in converting third downs, making good on 91 of 197 chances (46.2 percent). The Bears are 20th, converting 69 of 188 (36.7 percent). The league average is 38.5 percent.
Defensively, the Vikings are sixth at stopping opponents on third downs, allowing just 35.4 percent (63 of 178) to be converted. The Bears are hideous at 28th place at 41.9 percent (83 of 198).
Ryan Longwell is tied for second in the league in field goal percentage, having made 22 of 24 field goals. The combination of Neil Rackers and Mike Nugent in Arizona have made 18 of 19 field goals to lead the league.
Neither team has been ball-hawkish in terms of interceptions, but they have been better in terms of fumbles. The Vikings defense is 28th in interception percentage, having picked off just nine of 472 passes thrown. The Bears are 20th with 12 interceptions on 457 passes. However, both teams are dotted throughout the league leaders in defensive fumble recoveries. Chad Greenway of the Vikings and Adewale Ogunleye of Chicago are tied for second in the league with three fumble recoveries and two players from each team – Danieal Manning and Anthony Adams of the Bears and Jared Allen and Heath Farwell of the Vikings – are tied for 11th place with two recoveries each.
The Vikings are averaging 368.9 yards a game (249.9 passing, 119 rushing). The Bears are averaging 298.9 yards a game (210.5 passing, 88.4 rushing).
The Vikings defense is allowing 310.3 yards a game (220.7 passing, 89.6 rushing). The Bears are allowing 330.9 yards a game (202.4 passing 128.5 rushing).
The Vikings are fourth in red zone efficiency, having scored 34 touchdowns in 57 red zone trips – 59.6 percent. Entering play this week, only New Orleans had more trips into the red zone (66) and touchdowns (39) than the Vikings. The Bears have been awful, ranking 29th by scoring just 18 touchdowns in 42 trips to the red zone (42.9 percent).
Compounding the Bears' problems in the red zone is that they have come away empty on almost 30 percent of their trips to the red zone – 12 of 42 chances. Only Detroit is worse, having come away without points on 13 of 32 red zone chances.
Defensively, the Vikings are second only to Washington in red zone defense, having allowed just 15 touchdowns on 36 chances (41.7 percent). The Bears are 31st, allowing 31 touchdowns on 48 chances (64.6 percent). The worst team in the league in red zone defense is the Giants, who have allowed 70 percent of red zone trips to turn into touchdowns.
Thanks to teams kicking away from Percy Harvin and consistently giving away the 35-yard line, the Vikings remain first in average starting position at the 31.2-yard line – almost five yards better than the league average (26.3-yard line). The Bears are third with an average start of the 30.3-yard line.
Favre and Cutler have combined for seven 300-yard passing games, four for Favre and three for Cutler.
The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers, while the Bears have allowed just one. It was Favre, who lit them up for 392 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting of the season.
The Vikings have had four 100-yard receivers – Sidney Rice three times and Percy Harvin once (against Chicago). The Bears have just two – one each by Devin Hester and Matt Forte.
While neither team has allowed many 300-yard passers, individual receivers have lit them up. The Bears have allowed seven 100-yard receivers this year, while the Vikings have allowed five.
Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard rushing games this year, while Forte has just one. The Bears have allowed four 100-yard rushers, while the Vikings saw a streak that lasted more than two years snapped last week by Carolina's Jonathan Stewart.
Brett Favre remains among the league leaders in most passing categories – he is ninth in attempts (460), sixth in completions (312), fourth in completion percentage (67.8), 10th in yards (3,565), fourth in touchdowns (27), third in TD percentage (5.9), tied for third in interceptions (7), third in interception percentage (1.5) and second in passer rating (104.1).
Jay Cutler has fared far worse. He is fifth in attempts (484), but it goes all downhill from there. He is 10th in completions (294), 18th in completion percentage (60.7), 16th in yards (3,117), tied for 12th in touchdowns (19), 20th in touchdown percentage (3.9), 33rd in interceptions (25), 29th in interception percentage (5.2) and 24th in passer rating (71.1).
How bad are Cutler's interception numbers? Only four quarterbacks in the league have more than 15 interceptions – Jake Delhomme with 18, rookies Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez with 20 each and Cutler with 25.
Favre ranks fourth in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 111.1. Cutler is dead last among full-time starters at 63.5. The only quarterbacks with enough passes to qualify that are worse are Chris Redman of Atlanta (61.1) and Ryan Fitzpatrick of Buffalo (60.2).
Favre is sixth in the league in third-down passer rating 97.5. Cutler is 24th at 66.0 – having thrown 11 interceptions – only two other QBs have more than six (Delhomme with seven and Stafford with 10).
Adrian Peterson entered play this week in fourth place in the league in rushing, but will have some work to do tonight because he has fallen to seventh place thanks to some strong performances over the weekend. He has no chance of catching Chris Johnson of Tennessee (1,872 yards), but could move into second place because Steven Jackson of the Rams didn't play. To finish the week second in the league and leading the NFL in rushing, Peterson, who has 1,235 yards, will need 17 yards to pass Cedric Benson (1,251), 35 to pass Ray Rice (1,269), 75 to pass Maurice Jones-Drew, 89 to pass Thomas Jones (1,324) and 119 to pass Jackson (1,353). Forte entered the week 21st in rushing with 754 yards.
Neither team has a receiver near the top of the receptions list, but each has three in the top 50. Sidney Rice is tied for 17th with 71 catches, followed by Bernard Berrian (T-45th, 50) and Percy Harvin (T-47th, 49). Devin Hester is tied for 37th to lead the Bears with 54 receptions, followed closely by Forte (t39th, 53) and tight end Greg Olsen (41st, 52).
Rice could find himself climbing the receiving yardage charts with a big night. He entered play tied this weekend tied for fifth with 1,144 yards and is currently ninth. With a 100-yard game, he could move into third place. He needs just 20 yards to pass Steve Smith of the Giants (1,163), 24 yards to pass Vincent Jackson (1,167), 46 to pass Randy Moss (1,189) and 100 to pass both Reggie Wayne and Santonio Holmes (tied at 1,243). Andre Johnson of Houston is running away with the yardage crown with 1,503 yards, followed by Wes Welker with 1,336 yards.
Favre knows how to spread the ball around on third down. Chester Taylor is seventh in the league with 24 third-down receptions, Harvin is tied for eighth with 23 and Rice is tied for 26th with 18. Johnny Knox of the Bears leads his team with 19 – which is tied for 21st in the league.
Peterson is second in the league in scoring with 15 touchdowns. He is one behind Jones-Drew, who didn't score Sunday against the Patriots.
Entering play this week, Ryan Longwell was fourth in scoring among kickers with 112 points. Robbie Gould of Chicago was 21st with 80 points.
Peterson is currently fifth in total yards from scrimmage with 1,627 (1,235 rushing, 392 receiving). However, he should be firmly entrenched in third by game's end. He trails Steven Jackson (1,675) by 48 and Jones-Drew (1,677) by 50. Getting past the No. 2 spot will be all but impossible. He trails Ray Rice (1,952) by 325 yards and Chris Johnson (2,355) by a whopping 728 yards.
Knox and Harvin are Nos. 2 and 3 in kickoff return average. Knox checks in at No. 2 with a 28.9-yard average, while Harvin is third with a 28.3-yard average.
Darius Reynaud is fifth in the league in punt return average at 11.8 yards. What makes that more impressive is that his season long is just 36 yards. Of the other seven players with averages of 11 yards or more per return, each has had at least one return of 60 or more yards. Hester is 18th in the league with an 8.1-yard return average with a long of 33 yards.
Zackary Bowman of the Bears came into Week 16 tied for eighth place in the league with five interceptions. No Viking has more than three.
Jared Allen is tied for second in the league with 13.5 sacks. Dwight Freeney of the Colts had two sacks Sunday to tie Allen for second place. They both trail Elvis Dumervil of Denver, who added to his total Sunday for a league high of 17.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.