The teams in the NFC playoffs are set, but most of the seedings aren't determined yet. Each of the teams can make a case for their chances. We also go in-depth on the rankings and statistics of the Vikings and Giants, a game that will help determined those playoff seedings.
No matter how things turn out in the NFC from between noon and about 6:30 p.m. CST today, we already know who the six teams that will be in the NFC playoffs. What we don't know are the specific seedings, aside from New Orleans in the No. 1 spot. But perhaps more unnerving for everyone but the networks carrying the postseason games is who is going to win?
For much of the history of the NFL, the top-seeded teams were typically prohibitive favorites and for good reason – they almost always won. But that has changed. We've seen a No. 6 seed like the Pittsburgh Steelers win it all and a perfect team like the 2007 Patriots fall in the Super Bowl.
But this year may be the strangest of them all. Just look at the six teams in the playoffs and a case can be made for each of them to advance to Miami for the Super Bowl next month. Consider their cases:
NEW ORLEANS –
The Saints were the last unbeaten team in the NFC and, despite recent stumbles, they are the most potent offense in the league. They have had nine games with 30 or more points and have blowout wins at Philadelphia (48-22) and vs. New England (38-17). They will be at home throughout the playoffs, despite a late swoon.
Not much to say here. We all know about the Vikings' highs and lows in 2009.
The Eagles haven't lost since Nov. 15, running off six straight wins. They have a history of getting up on teams early and taking away a home-field advantage – they have outscored opponents 122-51 in the first quarter this year and 273-142 in the first half. They are playoff tested and know how to win in January.
The defending NFC champs, to date they have played just two teams that are in the 2009 playoffs and both at home – losing 31-10 to Indianapolis and beating the Vikings 30-17. They have won nine of their last 12 games and have a potent offense capable of winning a high-scoring shootout and an improved running game to protect a lead.
They have been on a long drought looking for a postseason win but are playing about as well as anyone. Their résumé includes road wins at Philadelphia and New Orleans, so sending them in potentially as a wild card won't affect them as it might other teams. The defense has allowed more than 21 points just twice all year – both to the Giants, who won't be in the playoffs. They have the right mix of offense and defense to make a deep run.
GREEN BAY –
Effectively left for dead after losing to the Vikings and Buccaneers to start November, the Packers have won six of their last seven games, with the only loss coming on a miracle touchdown with no time left in a 37-36 loss at Pittsburgh. Green Bay has held five of its last seven opponents to 14 points or less and has the NFL's top rush defense. They have the makeup to make a significant run.
There is a lot of football to be played today to determine who ends up where in the seedings. But perhaps this year more than most previous playoffs, a case can be made for each of the six teams and the tournament to determine the NFC champion is going to be fierce.
VIKINGS-GIANTS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the league's 8th rated offense (13th rushing, 12th passing) and the 9th-ranked defense (4th rushing, 20th passing). The Giants have the 6th-ranked offense (12th rushing, 11th passing) and the 10th-ranked defense (15th rushing, 8th passing).
The Vikings are fifth in third-down offense, converting 96 of 211 chances (45.5 percent). The Giants are eighth, making good on 89 of 202 third-down opportunities (44.1 percent). The league average is 38.6 percent.
The Vikings defense is sixth in third-down efficiency, allowing opponents to get first downs just 35.4 percent of the time (68 of 192). New York is 18th, allowing opponents to convert 39 percent of the time (73 of 187).
The Vikings offense is averaging 378.3 yards a game (258.2 passing, 120.1 rushing). The Giants are nearly identical, averaging 372.5 yards a game (253.2 passing, 119.3 rushing).
Defensively, the teams are almost equal as well. The Vikings have allowed 313.8 yards a game (223.2 passing, 90.6 rushing). The Giants have allowed 314.1 yards a game (204.5 passing, 109.6 rushing).
The Vikings are fifth in the league in scoring, while the Giants are eighth. The Vikings are 14th in points allowed, while New York is 28th.
The Vikings are tied for 10th in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-4 (22 takeaways, 18 giveaways). The Giants are tied for 22nd at minus-5 (24 takeaways, 29 giveaways).
The Vikings' red zone offense is third in the league in touchdown percentage, scoring on 62.3 percent (38 of 61) of their red zone trips. The Giants are 23rd at just 47.3 percent (26 touchdowns on 55 trips to the red zone).
The Vikings' 61 offensive drives into the red zone is also third in the league, trailing only New Orleans (69) and New England (63).
Defensively, the Vikings are sixth in the league in the red zone, allowing just 17 touchdowns on 39 red zone chances (43.6). The Giants are the worst in the league at a whopping 68.5 percent – allowing 37 touchdowns on 54 trips into the red zone.
The Vikings are second only to Chicago in average offensive starting field position following kickoffs (the 31.2-yard line). The league average is the 26.3-yard line. New York is 27th with an average start at the 24.7-yard line.
Brett Favre has five 300-yard passing games, while Eli Manning has three. Both teams have allowed opponents to throw for 300 yards twice.
The Vikings have had four 100-yard receiving days – three from Sidney Rice and one from Percy Harvin. The Giants have had seven – three from Steve Smith and two each from Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. The Vikings have allowed six 100-yard receivers, while New York has allowed four.
Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard rushing games this year (15 games) after posting 16 in his first two seasons (30 games).
For all his talent, Brandon Jacobs didn't have a 100-yard rushing game this year. Ahmad Bradshaw had two for the Giants' only 100-yard games this season.
The Vikings have allowed just one 100-yard rusher – Carolina's Jonathan Stewart. The Giants have allowed two, including 206 yards from Stewart last week.
Favre is in the top 10 in nearly every passing category. He's ninth in pass attempts (500), fifth in completions (338), fourth in completion percentage (67.6), ninth in yards (3,886), tied for third in touchdowns (29), third in touchdown percentage (5.8), tied for third in interceptions (7), second in interception percentage (1.4) and third in passer rating (104.3).
It would appear resting Drew Brees will win the top passer rating honors this year with a sizzling 109.6. With a solid day Sunday, Favre (104.3) could move back into second place, as he narrowly trails Philip Rivers of San Diego (104.5).
Manning has been middle of the pack in most passing categories this year. He is 10th in attempts (486), 14th in completions (300), 15th in completion percentage (61.7), tied for sixth in touchdowns (27), sixth in touchdown percentage (5.6), is tied for 20th in interceptions (13), 16th in interception percentage (2.7) and 11th in passer rating (94.2).
Favre is fourth in the league in fourth-quarter passer rating at 111.2 – trailing only Peyton Manning, Shaun Hill and Brees. Manning is 10th, with a passer rating of 95.5.
Manning is second in the league in third-down passer rating at 115.1, behind only Aaron Rodgers of the Packers with an incredible 135.1 rating. Favre is seventh with a passer rating of 95.9 on third downs.
Adrian Peterson is still battling for NFC rushing title. Chris Johnson of Tennessee has wrapped up the league rushing title. He has 1,872 yards and his team has committed to getting him over 2,000. Peterson is currently second in the NFC with 1,329 yards. He is more than 100 yards ahead of third place Ryan Grant and only 24 yards behind Steven Jackson of the Rams. Jackson missed last week's game and is listed as questionable this week with a back injury. He hasn't practiced all week, which should help Peterson lead the NFC in rushing for the second straight year.
The Giants don't have anyone high on the rushing leaderboard, but have two in the top 25. Jacobs is currently 19th with 835 yards, but won't add to that total since he was placed on injured reserve. Bradshaw is currently 25th with 765 yards.
Peterson leads the league in third-and-1 carries and conversions. He has rushed 17 times and converted 14. Jacobs and Bradshaw have combined for 20 third-and-1 carries, converting 13 of them.
Smith is third in the league with 97 receptions and Manningham is 40th with 57 catches. Sidney Rice is 16th with 77 receptions – the most by a Viking since Randy Moss had 111 catches in 2003. Harvin and Bernard Berrian are tied for 44th with 53 catches.
Rice is sixth in the league with 1,200 receiving yards, while Smith is ninth with 1,163 yards.
Smith leads the league with 37 receptions on third downs, but the Vikings have three in the top 20 – Chester Taylor is tied for seventh with 25, Harvin is tied for 10th with 23 and Rice is tied for 20th with 20.
Peterson leads the league in scoring for non-kickers with 102 points, coming on 17 touchdowns. That total would tie him for 12th among kickers. Visanthe Shiancoe is tied for 15th place with 10 touchdowns (60 points).
Both kickers are in the top five in the league in scoring. Lawrence Tynes of the Giants is third with 125 points, while Ryan Longwell is fifth with 118 points.
Barring a huge day from Maurice Jones-Drew, Peterson will finish third in the league in total yards. He is third with 1,764 yards (1,329 rushing, 435 receiving). Chris Johnson leads the league with 2,355 yards, followed by Ray Rice of the Ravens with 1,952. Peterson is currently 93 yards ahead of Jones-Drew.
Peterson has led the league in first downs gained for most of the season, but is currently second with 87 (71 rushing, 16 receiving) – one behind Johnson of the Titans.
With many recent opponents squib-kicking to the Vikings, Harvin has dropped to fifth in kick return average at 27.5 yards, although one big return could easily vault him back into third place.
Jared Allen is tied for second in the league in sacks with 13.5 – a mark he shares with Dwight Freeney of Indianapolis. Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos leads the league with 17.
Osi Umenyiora of the Giants leads the league with four defensive fumble recoveries. Chad Greenway of the Vikings is tied for second with three recoveries, while teammates Jared Allen and Heath Farwell are tied for 12th with two recoveries each.
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.