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A Quick Look at the Landscape in the NFC

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A Quick Look at the Landscape in the NFC

There's plenty of reason for Packer fans to feel exasperated with the way this season is going. For the second time in three years, the Packers enter the 11th game of their season with a losing record, despite having had Aaron Rodgers starting every one of their games. One could argue this is a team that has repeatedly underperformed over a majority of the last four seasons, and it's no surprise at all that the calls for coach Mike McCarthy's job are louder now than they've ever been.

But despite all of this, the Packers are still not out of it in the NFC. Not by a longshot.

If the playoffs started today, here's how things would look in the NFC:

1. New Orleans Saints (9-1)
2. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
3. Chicago Bears (7-3)
4. Washington Redskins (6-4)
5. Carolina Panthers (6-4)
6. Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1)
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7. Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
8. Seattle Seahawks (5-5)
9. Green Bay Packers (4-5-1)
10. Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
11. Detroit Lions (4-6)

The Packers currently sit a game out of the wild card, and have a game against the current six seed next week in Minnesota. That matchup has suddenly become the most important game of the Packers' season. A win would mean the Packers are still right in it. A loss... well, then the Packers would start having to hope for other teams to collapse in a big way.

But let's say the Packers manage to scrape out a tough road divisional win on Sunday, their first road win of the season. They then own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota, which is crucial considering they currently would lose tiebreakers against the Seahawks and Lions. Only a half game back from each Dallas and Seattle, the Packers would need to keep winning, and each of those teams would need to lose.

The Packers currently have perhaps the most favorable schedule left out of every team in the NFL, though there are certainly some tough games left, including road matchups in Minnesota and Chicago. Still, as we saw in 2016, all it takes is a little spark, something to get the gears turning and the team to pick up the momentum it needs to carry itself into January.

Right now, you gotta figure the NFC East is only getting one team into the playoffs. With the catastrophic injury to Washington quarterback Alex Smith this week, Dallas has an opportunity to leapfrog them and move into the playoff picture. Unless Washington is able to rally around Colt McCoy and stay afloat on the strength of its defense and running game, things aren't looking too great for them at the moment, as they only have a single-game lead over Dallas, and they have to travel to play Dallas on a short week this week on Thanksgiving Day. 

The guess here is that Carolina manages to hold on to a wild card position, and the Bears don't lose their 2.5 game lead on the Packers in the North, meaning it comes down to the wild card. That's where this week's game in Minnesota looms so large--owning the tiebreaker over the Vikings would be a massive deal for the Packers.

Ultimately, the loss against the Seahawks could prove devastating for the Packers' playoff chances, even if the Packers win out. But the Packers find themselves in a very similar situation to where they were in the "Run the Table" stretch just two years ago.

Does all this mean I believe the Packers really will right the ship and push their way into the playoffs? No; if I were forced to place a bet on it, I'd have the Packers sitting at home in January. But there is one more week of hope left for this team. A win in Minnesota will keep that hope alive, and with as inconsistent as the other teams in the running for the Wild Card spot have been, it's not at all crazy to think the Packers could get there on a late-season surge once again.

 

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Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

freddisch's picture

Not out by a long shot? What GB team have you been watching?

The TKstinator's picture

Sun’s out, guns out.

bears suck forever's picture

I don't think Arron has booked a tee time in January yet, but I bet he has reserved one under another name.

Kb999's picture

Please win a game on the road.

Packer Fan's picture

With all the lousy play, the Pack is still in the hunt. I see Washington fading. Perhaps they can trade for Hundley in Seattle.

Regardless of this, the Pack need to play much better. The offense needs to be more consistent, they need to use Jones more, especially the dump off passes. The special teams need to start having less penalties. I don't know how to do that, Zook has to figure out how to do that. McCarthy needs to figure out how to choose better plays and Rodgers buy in. Move the chains has to be the mantra instead of long developing plays - play within the system. And why are there so many hamstring and groin issues in the secondary???? Guys are trying to hard. And Rodgers has to be the galvanizing moment and lead the team. Either that or fire McCarthy now to get them to have a galvanizing moment. I would prefer this to firing McCarthy at the end of the year. He has lost his edge.

Tundraboy's picture

Guess you haven't caught the Chiefs/Rams game. Anyone think we can score 50 if we needed to right now?

Lphill's picture

Did you notice how bad both pass defenses are on both the chiefs and Rams? Sam shields was getting burned all night. Soft zone coverages by both . Both QB ‘s took advantage of it both teams have strong D lines but it ends there.

Tundraboy's picture

That's a whole other story.

Since '61's picture

Yes, anything can happen and the Packers still have a chance but now in addition to our inconsistent play we are hit with the injury plague again.

Daniels out, Graham out (although that may be a good thing). Besides, Alexander and T. Williams I'm not sure who is available in the secondary. Hopefully Cobb is returning on offense and I think he will be helpful to Rodgers. I'd like to see Tonyan get Graham's snaps. Adams, Cobb and MVS is a good group at WR for Rodgers.

Maybe Trevor Davis can make a play in the return game providing it is not wasted with a penalty.

Pettine should be able to generate pressure on Cousins since the Vikings run game has not been very good. Their OL is a weak spot and hopefully Pettine can exploit it.

Maybe this is the week the Packers put a game together on the road. My expectations are not high but you never know. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

If Clark plays 60 snaps, the over/under on how many double teams he will see is 59.

Nick Perry's picture

.

Bearmeat's picture

IF (and that's a big if) GB can stop shooting themselves in the foot, they can hang with anyone. What we're all frustrated with is the inconsistency and the BS from MM and ARod.

Personally, if GB gets hot (I know), I think Chicago will lose 3 of their last 6. GB would go 6-0 to finish the year and get the 3 seed.

Dzehren's picture

GB rebuilding. Secondary finally fixed this year.

OLB, OL, another weapon for AROD at any skill position & new head coach will be next- then we can make a run.

dobber's picture

" Secondary finally fixed this year."

I think they said that going into 2016...and then Shields was knocked out and it all went south from there.

Dzehren's picture

We have 12 new defensive backs on the active roster and practice squad since 2016

Chuck Farley's picture

First, I was kind of expecting this outcome so not surprised at all.
1. Bears were rebuilding past three years with top low first round picks, mostly defense. They had to get better. They did.
2. Vikes had solid d and only needed a few additions to stay at or near the top. They are there.
Leaving the pack to fight for last place with the Lions.
It is what it is. Your competitors get decent free agents and
Spend capital on lower draft picks. The kind you build a team around.

Stic's picture

SB or bust!!!

dobber's picture

As a side note: you'll all notice that neither the Bears nor the Vikes even attemped a PAT on 4 TDs on Sunday night.

I wondered when we'd start to see things trend this way. Kicking PATs seems akin to being that person who waits and pays all those bills at the end of the month, thinking that you'll make that 0.0005% interest on your checking account, only to find that the one time you miss a bill and get charged a late fee you've just frittered away 3 years of checking interest.

If the 2pt conversion rate is something near 40% and the PAT kick rate is somewhere around 80%, there's a point--especially if your O is decent--where kicking PATs is taking a loss.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

1. The play calling is not going to get any better
2. Rodgers is not getting rid of the ball any quicker
3. Rodgers is still throwing the ball out of bounds
4. Still bad to no use of the TE
5. Special Teams not playing up to par.

Bottomline: The Packers sre on the verge of doing nothing. I just don't see any improvement, we don't have any star player’s coming off injury report.

Its the same old slop that in the end will lead to defeat and a low draft pick.

tincada's picture

The only view of the landscape in GB should be of the gardeners digging MM's grave.

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