Suddenly, the Door to the No. 1 Seed Opens Again for the Vikings

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

The phrase from The Godfather Part III is an apt summary of the 2022 Minnesota Vikings season so far, given all the crazy comebacks that they’ve pulled off this season. This time, there’s potential for a comeback not in a single game, but for the overall standings.

After the Week 14 loss to Detroit seemingly closed the door to the No. 1 seed for the Vikings. Now, the door is suddenly back open heading into the final two weeks of the season due to the Eagles 40-34 loss to the Cowboys.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Now at 13-2, Philadelphia needs one of two things to happen in order to clinch the top seed:

  • A 4th Vikings loss
  • A win against either the New Orleans Saints or New York Giants

Considering the Vikings have road divisional games against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears left on their schedule, either of these possibilities seems feasible enough. That being said, especially as injuries begin to pile up for the Eagles, a win against the surging Saints (winners of back-to-back games following their bye) or their own division rivals may be more difficult.

Jalen Hurts already missed this past week against the Cowboys with a shoulder injury, and Philly may hope to keep him on the shelf going into the playoffs. In his stead, it’s Gardner Minshew taking snaps under center. He’s certainly a capable backup, and he proved it against Dallas with 355 passing yards and a pair of TDs against the Cowboys defense.

Suddenly, the Door to the No. 1 Seed is open for the Vikings
Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, Minshew is limited to the pocket much more than Hurts is. With Hurts, Philly has the flexibility to draw up quarterback runs in a way that head coach Nik Sirianni cannot do with Minshew. That could prove to be a problem against the Saints and Giants with their groups of pass rushers.

In addition, Philly lost Pro Bowler OT Lane Johnson to an abdominal injury this weekend, and he will miss the final two games of the regular season. This could create more problems protecting Minshew in the pocket, and perhaps the running game won’t be as effective.

On the defense, Philly will also miss CB Avonte Maddux, who is expected to miss time with a toe injury. The five-year NFL veteran has started each of the last three games for the Eagles, and overall, he’s played nine games in 2022. In those games, he recorded 43 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 QB hits, a sack, a fumble recovery, 3 pass defenses, and an interception.

The Eagles can designate C.J. Gardner-Johnson to return from IR this week, but his ability to play is far from guaranteed against his former team, the Saints. Philly’s secondary has been one of their biggest strengths this season, but the depth is severely diminished by the loss of Maddux.

The road to the No. 1 seed for the Vikings will be a difficult one, no doubt, but it’s far from over at this point in time. That being said, the Vikings have done some crazy things this season. Do they have another comeback in them this year?

Editor’s Note: Statistics from Pro-Football-Reference helped with this piece.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.