The Minnesota Vikings have moved into the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them home-field advantage throughout the rest of the playoffs and the Super Bowl, if they can retain that position for the rest of the season.
After securing a victory against the Atlanta Falcons in the early slate of games, the Vikings were able to watch the Seattle Seahawks put away the Philadelphia Eagles — which dropped the Eagles record to 10-2, identical to the Vikings.
That triggers the tiebreaker process for the playoffs, which can get somewhat convoluted.
Because the Eagles and the Vikings are not in the same division, no divisional record tiebreaker is used. Instead, the first tiebreaker is based on head-to-head record. They haven’t played against each other, so it moves to the second tiebreaker — conference record.
With the loss to the Seahawks, the Eagles have the same conference record (8-1) as the Vikings, who lost to the Detroit Lions early in the season.
The tiebreaker after that is the record in common games, but that only applies if they have four games in common. The Vikings have two (the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins) while the Eagles have three (because they played Washington twice). Once the Eagles play the Los Angeles Rams and the Vikings play the Chicago Bears once more, they will have common opponents to compare.
The fourth tiebreaker being used now is “strength of victory,” which measures the win percentage of the teams both squads have won against. The Vikings’ losing opponents have won 46.7 percent of games while the Eagles’ losing opponents have won 37.5 percent of their games.
Entering the game, the Eagles had the second-lowest strength of victory of playoff teams, but they moved to the lowest after the Seahawks moved up from the bottom spot with a strength of victory of 41.7 percent.
The next tiebreakers after that are “strength of schedule,” defined as the overall record of opponents, best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed, best-combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed, best net points in conference games, best net points in all games and finally, best net touchdowns in all games.
If somehow those 10 tiebreakers do not break a tie, two teams will flip a coin.
The Vikings have had a difficult schedule overall with an opponent overall winning percentage of 49.7 percent, fourth-highest among playoff teams. Football Outsiders, which evaluates games on a play-by-play basis and then adjusts for strength of schedule, measures the Vikings’ overall schedule as the third-toughest.
By opponent-adjusted point differential, something pro-football-reference uses, the Vikings rank second among playoff teams in strength of schedule. They are 5-2 against teams with winning records.
The Eagles, on the other hand, haven’t had as difficult a schedule to deal with. They are 1-2 against teams with winning records, have an overall opponent win percentage of 41 percent, the lowest among playoff teams.
Football Outsiders ranked their schedule as the fifth-easiest in the NFL (second-lowest among playoff teams), while opponent-adjusted point differential agrees with their schedule’s ranking among playoff teams and the rest of the NFL.
That certainly doesn’t mean the Eagles are a poor team. Good teams take care of bad teams and Philadelphia has certainly does that.
Because the Super Bowl is being hosted in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings would be the first team in NFL history to have a true home-field advantage in the Super Bowl — though the AFC is technically “hosting” the Super Bowl this year.
The Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers did play in a Super Bowl that occurred in their city, but not in their home stadium — with the Rams playing in the Rose Bowl in 1980 while the 49ers played at Stanford Stadium in 1985. The Rams lost while the 49ers won.
That 49ers team was the only team to play every playoff game, including the Super Bowl, in their home city.
The Vikings, should they retain the seed and win out, would be the second such team to play the entire postseason in their home city but naturally the only ones to do so in their own stadium — a record that would stand if a future team played in their home stadium’s Super Bowl when they weren’t the top seed in their conference.
The Vikings have some difficult opponents coming ahead, with the 8-4 Carolina Panthers next — another road game — and a potentially rejuvenated Green Bay Packers that could feature the return of Aaron Rodgers.
The Eagles have a tough test against the Los Angeles Rams coming up, but no other teams that currently have a winning record.
The two closest competitors for the top seed, the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, also have tough schedules. Not only will they play Philadelphia, but the Rams will also play against the 8-4 Titans and another game against the Seahawks. The Saints will have to play the Falcons twice.