Vikings edge closer to first-round bye, Ravens nearer to playoffs
The Minnesota Vikings inched closer to a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs, while the Baltimore Ravens boosted their postseason chances.
NFC North champions the Vikings rolled to a 16-0 shutout of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Saturday.
The Vikings (12-3) will clinch a first-round bye with one more victory or a loss by the Carolina Panthers (10-4) to either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday or the Atlanta Falcons next week.
Minnesota will close the regular season against the visiting Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on New Year's Eve and could then have a bye before hosting an NFC divisional playoff game.
The Packers (7-8), meanwhile, are in danger of having their first losing season since 2008 and just their third losing season since going 4-12 in 1991.
Meanwhile, the Ravens held off the Indianapolis Colts for a 23-16 victory Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium.
A win next week over the Cincinnati Bengals (5-9) will put the Ravens in the postseason.
The Ravens (9-6) were not able to put Saturday's game out of reach until Joe Flacco found a wide-open Maxx Williams in the flat for a four-yard touchdown with 8:40 remaining in the game to cap a 14-play, 75-yard drive.
VIKINGS MIGHT MAKE HISTORY
Minnesota could become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Vikings are just a Philadelphia Eagles loss away from gaining homefield throughout the postseason. While Green Bay's season was lost once Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, the Vikings have flourished since losing week-one starter Sam Bradford.
Case Keenum, who was 14 of 25 for 139 yards on Saturday, has been impressive all season with 3,358 yards and 21 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. His first-quarter touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs was a perfectly placed ball in the back of the end zone.
Keenum has played great, but the Vikings are a threat to win the Super Bowl because of their stellar defense. The Vikings held the Packers to just 239 yards of offense and recorded their first shutout since 1993. While Green Bay's defense turned in a valiant effort, Minnesota have a championship-level defense that could lead the franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl title.
SCHEDULE IS FAVOURABLE FOR THE RAVENS
Even if the Ravens were to lose to the Bengals, they would still likely get in. Baltimore began week 16 as the seventh seed in the AFC, but the teams in front of them have difficult final games. The Tennessee Titans (8-6) play the Los Angeles Rams (10-4) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) and the Buffalo Bills (8-6) have road games against the New England Patriots (11-3) and the Miami Dolphins (6-8). While the Bills should beat the Dolphins, Miami is not an easy place to play as the Patriots proved by losing there on December 11.
Baltimore can take things into their own hands by beating the Bengals, a team the Ravens shut out in the season opener. But should the Bengals pull off the upset, things are still looking good for the Ravens.
SHORT-HANDED PACKERS NEVER HAD A CHANCE
The Packers were already without several starters and then saw right tackle Jason Spriggs carted off the field after the first play from scrimmage with a knee injury. Spriggs, who missed most of the season with a hamstring injury, was replaced by Justin McCray. Not including Aaron Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week after a one-game return from his broken collarbone, Spriggs was the sixth Packers starter who did not play on Saturday. Spriggs was only playing right tackle because of a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury to starter Bryan Bulaga. Rodgers and Bulaga are two of 12 Packers players on injured reserve.
Linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, cornerback Damarious Randall, guard Jahri Evans and receiver Davante Adams were all inactive against the Vikings. In addition to Spriggs, the Packers also lost tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and receiver Jordy Nelson (shoulder).