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NFL playoff picture: With NFC North wrapped up, Vikings can now turn their eyes to the bye

By Derek Wetmore

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings won a non-competitive laugher against the Bengals on Sunday. They locked up the NFC North with the win, and for the first time in a terrific season they’re actually guaranteed to go the playoffs.

It’s seemed like a likelihood for awhile, but people in Minnesota know better than to takes those things for granted.

The rest of the NFC playoff picture is still uncertain, although it’s starting to take shape. Vikings players took a group photo and passed around hats that celebrated the victory. Harrison Smith said that they’d enjoy the feeling of victory for the rest of the night.

But on a short week with the Packers looming on Saturday, he said, there’s no time to dwell on the prospect of your previous accomplishments. That means that it’s back to work for the Vikings come Monday morning.

“You want to be in the moment,” Smith said. “Obviously we’re going to enjoy winning the North. That’s big and it should be celebrated. It’s not the end goal.”

The rest of the playoff picture is yet settled, of course.

The Packers lost to the Panthers on Sunday, which is good news for anybody who feared Aaron Rodgers dragging Green Bay into the playoffs this year. The Packers (7-7) got Rodgers back from a broken collarbone this week. But the loss to the Panthers is a big blow to their chances of making it into the playoffs as an NFC wild card team. The Packers host Minnesota next weekend, and that game will not have NFC North title consequences.

Meanwhile, the Eagles hung on to beat the Giants, 34-29, despite trailing by multiple scores at times throughout Sunday afternoon. That means Philadelphia is 12-2, and in the driver’s seat to secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

The Eagles are the current No. 1 seed, while the Vikings are the No. 2 seed. If the season ended today, the Vikings would get a first-round bye and then host the winner from the wild card round with the highest seed (a team like the Saints, Panthers or Rams).

If the Vikings win their final 2 games, they’ll be assured of hosting at least one playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium — regardless of the outcome of other important games around the league. If the Vikings were to lose out and the Panthers win out, then Minnesota wouldn’t even get a first-round bye.

The post NFL playoff picture: With NFC North wrapped up, Vikings can now turn their eyes to the bye appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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