Monday, November 9, 2009

Vikings win division without even playing

It's not technically over yet in the NFC North. But, thanks to losses by Chicago and Green Bay on Sunday, it would take a few minor miracles for the Vikings not to claim their second straight division crown in 2009.

Here's how things currently stack up:

Minnesota: 7-1
Chicago: 4-4
Green Bay: 4-4

With eight games left to play, Minnesota holds three-game leads over both Chicago and Green Bay and owns the tiebreaker over Green Bay (making for an effective four-game lead over the Packers). Let's assume the Vikings can handle Detroit and Seattle the next two weeks at home. We'll also assume that Green Bay beats Dallas and San Francisco and Chicago beats San Francisco and Philadelphia -- neither of which are sure bets and are, at the very least, a higher caliber of opponents than the Vikings face. That would make the standings:

Minnesota: 9-1
Chicago: 6-4
Green Bay: 6-4

going into Minnesota's home tilt with Chicago in week 12. Now, let's assume the Vikings win that game (and GB wins again vs. Detroit). Now the standings are:

Minnesota: 10-1
Green Bay: 7-4
Chicago: 6-5

With five games left to play, Minnesota has an effective four-game lead over Green Bay and an effective five-game lead over Chicago. Why five games? Simple. If Minnesota beast Detroit and Chicago, Minnesota now owns tiebreaker over Chicago. The Vikings would be 5-0 against their division, while Chicago would be 1-2. Even if the Vikings lose to Chicago later in the year and the Bears win the rest of their divisional games, the Vikings would still have a 5-1 divisional record to Chicago's 4-2.

And all that has to happen for this scenario to play out is for Minnesota to beat Detroit and Seattle (pretty likely) at home. Even if Chicago and Green Bay go 2-0 over their next two contests -- hardly a sure thing -- the Vikings are still sitting pretty. If either team goes 1-1 or, even better, 0-2, it all but sinks their hopes of winning the division. And that's awfully nice to hear before mid-November.

No comments: