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Around the NFC North - Week 15: NFCN Playoff Picture

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Around the NFC North - Week 15: NFCN Playoff Picture

Things continue to be tight at the top of the NFC North, but while the Packers keep winning, so do the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.

Last week we broke down where these three teams sat in relation to playoff berths, and we’re doing the same this week, while also discussing what we expect from them in their Week 15 games.

Naturally, we’ve ignored the Chicago Bears unless we have to talk about them.

  • Detroit Lions
  • 9-4
  • First place, NFC North  
  • Projected 2nd Seed NFC
  • @New York Giants Week 15

The Lions are definitely in control of their own destiny, and while it’s not guaranteed they will make the playoffs, it looks very good. If they can win two out of the next three games, they will win the division. They can also win it if the Packers and/or Vikings lose a game when the Lions win it.

It won’t be easy, as the Lions have a tough schedule these last three weeks. They travel to Dallas in Week 16 and face the Packers in Week 17, but they have to get past the New York Giants in New Jersey this week. The Lions are a different team on the road, compiling just a 3-3 record, but they are 7-2 within the NFC. The Giants are coming off an emotional win over the Dallas Cowboys, so a letdown is possible but the team also knows that if they can win out, they could steal the NFC East from the Cowboys.

So expect them to come to play.

And Matt Stafford is dealing with an injured hand as well.

The Lions five-game win streak is likely to come to an end somewhere in the next three games, and my guess is this week is it. The Giants defense isn’t perfect but it seems to have found its feet the last few games while the Lions are uneven when on the road and have an injured quarterback.

If the Giants offensive line can give Eli Manning just a little protection, the Giants should win this game and the door should be open for the Packers to close the gap.

Prediction: Giants 24, Lions 17

  • Minnesota Vikings
  • 7-6
  • Second place, NFC North  
  • Projected 8th Seed NFC – out of playoffs
  • Vs. Indianapolis Colts Week 15

On the plus side for the Vikings, their defense is back to playing outstanding football. On the negative side, their offensive line and backfield are a dumpster fire in a tire fire, during a nuclear meltdown.

In other words, it’s ugly.

It’s also led to two losses out of the last three games which could have—arguably should have—been wins. Both the loss to the Dallas Cowboys and the one to the Detroit Lions were ones you can totally blame on the offense, and in the case of the Lions loss, blame Sam Bradford for a terrible interception.

This is the problem with a team which can only do one thing well. The Vikings play incredible defense but are not anything remotely good on offense. Whereas the Denver Broncos at least had a run game last season, the Vikings don’t have that.

They have a winnable game against the Fighting Andrew Lucks (aka the Indianapolis Colts) this weekend, given how awful the Colts are on defense. Bradford should be able to move the ball on them, and the Vikings defense should be all over Luck considering the Colts offensive line might actually be as bad as the Vikings’ is.

But this is still Andrew Luck and he still finds ways to keep his team in games they shouldn’t. If the Vikings defense gives him room, they will be in trouble.

Then the Vikings have to take on Green Bay in Week 16, which should prove to be a much bigger challenge this time around. The Week 17 game against Chicago might end up being a non-factor if they lose to Green Bay, and definitely will if they also manage to lose to Indianapolis this week.

Prediction: Vikings 17, Colts 14

  • Green Bay Packers
  • 7-6
  • Third place, NFC North  
  • Projected 9th Seed NFC
  • @Chicago Bears Week 15

This should be an easy win, but when was the last time things were easy for this team?

Oh, right. Last week when they curb-stomped the Seattle Seahawks.

Even in Soldier Field, we shouldn’t see the Packers struggling this week. CHTV will be breaking this all the way down the rest of the week, so let’s focus on the big picture.

The Packers have to win to keep pace with the Lions and Vikings. It works out that the Packers can take care of business by facing both of the teams in front of them over the next two weeks.

They still need help, though, particularly when it comes to the Lions, who are two games up on them right now. The Packers need the Lions to drop at least one game in the next two, while also not losing another game themselves.  They also need the Vikings to drop a game, though again they can take care of that on their own next week.

The Packers are playing very well right now, but it could be too little-too late and they have left themselves no margin for error.  

The next two weeks, their fate is in their own hands.

This week, they need some help from the Giants.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Green Bay has to win out. That's all there is to it. Not easy, but if they play the way they have been the past 3 weeks, it's doable.

IF we get in as NFCN champ - we'd probably be the 4 seed. Looks like NYG will be #5. It won't get easier if we get in. Gulp.

Go Giants. For now. :)

dobber's picture

Getting that 4-seed is like getting a 5-6 seed in the NCAA hoops tournament: you commonly get locked up with a hot team (usually from a mid-major or lesser conference) and that seed matchup isn't as generous-looking as it seems. I think it's actually worse in the NFL since that first WC team usually has a meaningfully better resume than that 4th division winner.

dobber's picture

Lions seem to keep winning and one of these weeks I might have to own up to the fact that they might not be an average team masquerading as a good one. Someone PLEASE beat these guys!

Vikings have lost 6 of their last 8, and have only beaten the tail-spinning Cardinals and eked out a win against the Jacksonville "biggest waste of talent in the league" Jags (some coach is going to inherit that roster this offseason and they're going to win 10+ next season). Colts have already shown that they can go into a hostile environment with their backs are against the wall and win a game (e.g. Lambeau). Reverse that score on the Vikings game this week.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if the Vikings lose this week to the Colts, they can't win the division, right? Even if the Lions lose out and the Vikes win their last two, both teams end up 9-7 and the Lions win on HTH. If they lose, then beat the Packers and win their final game (9-7), and the Packers beat the Bears and Lions, and Lions lose out, that creates a 3-way 9-7 at the top of the division with the Packers losing HTH with the Vikes, the Lions losing HTH to the Packers and the Vikes Losing HTH with the Lions...which throws this all to divisional records where the Packers 4-2 beats the Lions (3-3) and Vikes (3-3). Someone check my math...

MarkinMadison's picture

I think the first tie-breaker is division record, not HTH.

dobber's picture

In a 3-way tie, you may be right.

In edit: here it is. HTH, then division record.
http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures

MarkinMadison's picture

This does not feel like the year to me for the Packers to go the distance. Another play-off appearance just means another year at the bottom of the draft order. I'm o.k. with whatever comes.

Lphill's picture

In other news the Packers sign linebacker Jordan Tripp to active Roster.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

ILB Tripp is an interesting guy. Measurables are tremendous. Has short arms. Really fast, and quick. 5th round draft pick. Smart, tough, and dedicated. Yet hasn't been able to catch on with a team and is now in his 3rd year.

Handsback's picture

They need to win Sunday. This week is against their biggest rival who is going to want to kill them. As they say...win or go home.

Curt's picture

If my scenario analysis on ESPN Playoff Machine is right:

Packers win out and Detroit loses to either Dallas or NYGiants, GB wins division since they would win three way tie with Loins or Viqueens and / or HTD with Detroit.

Detroit wins two and loses only to GB, then even at 10-6 GB needs more help to be wild card in the form of one of these --- Wash would have to lose again (NYG, PHI, CHI) --- Tampa would have to lose twice (DAL, CAR, NO) --- NYG would have to lose twice (DET, PHI, WAS).

Could win division title at 9-7 if Loins lose all three as long as Viqueens lose at least two.

There are ways to get in as wild card at 9-7, but they would be even longer shots (Tampa or NYG losing all three, or one of them losing three in addition to Wash losing twice).

Amanofthenorth's picture

Why have the packers done this to themselves. Exciting but frustrating as well. And now a fluke cold front is going to totally equal the playing field
In Chicago. Hold on.

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