The Vikings won the NFC North.
Now they have to worry about whether they’ve lost by winning.
By handing the Packers a 20-13 loss at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale, the Vikings earned a first-round date with the Seahawks in the wild card round.
And while this year’s accomplishments are significant, the fact that they’re playing a team with playoff experience and a hot streak is also real.
The Seahawks have won six of their last seven, including a 38-7 decision at Minnesota on Dec. 6.
That was the day the Vikings were held to 125 yards, and watched Russell Wilson throw three touchdowns and run for another.
The notion that the Seahawks were the team no one wanted to face in the postseason is built largely on reputation from the previous two seasons, but it’s also earned over the last two months. They’ve averaged 32 points per game in the second half of the season, and they just dismantled the previously hot Cardinals, who were playing for the top seed in the NFC playoffs entering the game.
The distance Mike Zimmer has brought the Vikings in his second year is impressive, but not many are going to expect them to take it much farther this season.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. The Vikings are still by and large a young team, and Adrian Peterson proved he’s far from an old man.
The 30-year-old running back led the league in rushing, finishing with 1,485 yards. Of course, he was going to win the title without carrying the ball, unless he lost 17 yards, since Bucs running back Doug Martin managed just 48 yards against the Panthers today to finish with 1,402.
He’s only the third player his age to win a rushing title, joining Curtis Martin in 2004 (31) and Marion Motley in 1950 (30) to lead the league at such a mature age.
Then again, he did have to leave in the second half with a back injury, which is an old guy problem to have.
2. The Packers protection problems and injuries to their receivers are real and legitimate issues.
But so is the fact Aaron Rodgers hasn’t looked so hot lately.
While he’s still one of the league’s best passers, Rodgers can get rattled when things aren’t going right around him. And this year qualifies as the case, as does Sunday night in particular.
Few players deliver a better deep ball than Rodgers, but to do that, he has to have time to take a drop and have someone get open and catch it. And it also helps when people understand where they’re supposed to be, and they don’t have to burn timeouts late.
3. There are things the Packers could do this offseason to make themselves better without breaking the bank.
But finding some reliable inside linebackers to let Clay Matthews do what he does best needs to be near the top of that list.
Matthews is still able to impact games, as he showed in the first half. But he’s so much better when he’s able to play in space.
With Julius Peppers aging and their other options outside underwhelming, the Packers have a clear need there too, one which Matthews could address.
4. Of course, adding many offensive linemen is also on that list for Ted Thompson.
Josh Sitton is a Pro Bowl guard, and did a good enough job in pass protection for the short term filling in at left tackle.
But they clearly need an overall upgrade to that line, after spending loads of mid-round picks and hoping Rodgers elevates them.
5. The Vikings have made strides this year thanks to the progress of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
But he’s also still a bit of a limiting factor, at least in terms to play-calling.
After his interception, things were drawn in significantly, and he wasn’t asked to do much. And then his late fumbled exchange with Peterson nearly cost them the game and the division.
Those are young-guy problems, the kind of things that only go away with time and results.