Cory's Corner: NFC Playoff Picture Is In Focus

The NFL playoff picture is slowly coming into focus. 

Things are becoming a little clearer as we head closer to the home stretch. The weather is getting nastier now and you can feel the playoff chill in the air. 

We still have a month to go in the regular season, thanks to the new 17-game schedule. The Packers have five games left — with three of those being NFC North opponents. The combined record of the Bears, Ravens, Browns, Vikings and Lions is 24-35-1. 

The only sure bet to make the playoffs from those five is the Ravens. The Browns have been up and down this year and if Myles Garrett continues his torrid pace of sacks and ties or breaks Michael Strahan’s sack record, he needs to be at least mentioned as an MVP candidate. But he’s a defensive player, so he won’t win. 

Then there’s the NFC North. Where do I start with this lousy division? I never thought that it would be the best division in football at the start of the year, but I honestly thought that Minnesota and Chicago would be competitive. 

Minnesota still has a faint playoff heartbeat, but it doesn’t look too good now after handing Detroit its first win of the season. The Bears are still trying to figure things out with rookie quarterback Justin Fields or Andy Dalton — who has started the last two games. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter who starts for the Bears because that offensive line doesn’t allow much room for error. Dalton was pressured 13 times by Arizona on Sunday and 10 times by Detroit on Thanksgiving. Even if Fields plays on Sunday night vs. Green Bay with cracked ribs, the Bears don’t have enough complementary pieces to make it work. 

So what does that mean for the Packers? Green Bay should set a realistic goal of going 4-1 down the stretch. Going to Baltimore a couple weeks after Pittsburgh stole an important division game is going to fuel the Ravens for a while.

That would put the Packers final record at 13-4. Green Bay is currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Remember, the only team that will nail down a first round bye will be the No. 1 seed in each conference. 

Arizona, who currently sits atop the NFC with a 10-2 record, faces the Rams, Lions, Colts, Cowboys and Seahawks that sport a combined 28-32-1 record. The Rams, Colts and Cowboys are playoff contenders from that list, with the Rams nipping at Arizona’s heels for the NFC West title. 

Tampa Bay is third in the NFC with a 9-3 record. The Buccaneers face the Bills, Saints, Panthers twice and Jets. The combined record of that crew is 25-34 with only Buffalo being a real playoff contender from the bunch. 

With a 13-4 record, the Packers should be in play for the No. 1 seed. But more importantly, getting the core of this team healthy would be astronomical. Left tackle David Bakhtiari and edge rusher Za’Darius Smith haven’t logged any or barely any snaps this year and getting those two back right before the end of the season would be a huge lift for a team that has really been stung by so many injury bugs this year.

Everything is in front of Green Bay. As long as the Packers continue to play for each other, I don’t see why this team cannot make a deep playoff run. Not many people gave them a chance to get this far with so much adversity and the Packers are arguably the best team in football. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

6 points

Comments (10)

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Johnblood27's picture

December 07, 2021 at 06:30 am

Just run the damn ball!

...and run the table!

So, just R-E-L-A--X Cory.

btw, Z has played a few snaps this season, 20-something if I remember correctly.

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NickPerry's picture

December 07, 2021 at 07:26 am

"Going to Baltimore a couple weeks after Pittsburgh stole an important division game is going to fuel the Ravens for a while."

Hmmm...Baltimore definitely has some issues right now and is probably right up there with the Packers in terms of injuries to key players. They just lost their best CB, Marlon Humphrey, who is out for the season. As long as the Packers can keep Jackson in check, just like they did Kyler Murry, the Ravens don't seem nearly as scary as they did about 13 weeks ago. ONE game at a time as MLF says, but 5-0 is VERY realistic for the Packers IMO.

This week I'm going to be a BIG Buffalo and LA Rams fan. IF the Packers were to finish 13-4 and lost to the Ravens, the best opportunity to be sure the Bucs finish with the same record is this week. I think the Bills go to Tampa and beat the Bucs. The Packers STILL own the tiebreaker with TB with a better conference record.

ALL I want for Christmas is our All-Pro LT and All-Pro CB back in the lineup by say week 15 or 16. Then for New Years our All-Pro Edge Rusher would be nice too. But seriously getting Bakhtiari and Alexander back with enough time to get them feeling comfortable, makes this Packers team the CLEAR favorite IMO. With the offense starting to play a little better the last few weeks despite the injuries. This is the epitome of a TEAM. This Packers team is playing a 3rd string LT, 2nd string LG, 2nd string center, and a rookie RG, and they barely missed a beat.

As long as AR12 plays the way he did against the Rams, WITHIN the system and gameplan MLF lays out, this team can win ANY WAY, and ANYWHERE. Oh, and BTW, one more thing for Christmas...NO trips to Florida. While I have faith in the Packers EVERY game, I'd just not rather test that faith in Florida for the rest of THIS season.

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dobber's picture

December 08, 2021 at 08:16 am

"As long as the Packers can keep Jackson in check, just like they did Kyler Murry,"

Jackson isn't like any QB the Packers have seen, yet. Murray and Wilson are athletic QBs but they're mostly pass-first guys. Even a couple years into the league, that's not so much the case with Jackson. He's going to get his yards running the ball. It's hard to prevent that part. They just need to keep him from taking over the game...which I think was your point. ;)

"But seriously getting Bakhtiari and Alexander back with enough time to get them feeling comfortable, makes this Packers team the CLEAR favorite IMO. "

That's ultimately the question: how long will it take to ramp up these guys and have them in a place where they'll legitimately be better than the guy they replace over the course of an entire game? It's going to take a while for Bakhtiari and Z to be full strength (if at all)...and in Z's case, how will he play the run? I'm less concerned with Alexander because his upper-body injury likely impacts him less on a play by play baseis and has probably allowed him to be running and active.

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murf7777's picture

December 07, 2021 at 07:26 am

I agree with the 13-4, but unsure where the loss will come. I think the way L. Jackson is playing right now Baltimore is very beatable. Home field and a bye would be great, but more importantly would be heading into the playoffs more healthy and playing at a high level. I want to see better Offense in the red zone.

I foresee another showdown of the bays. This time the Green comes out the winner. GPG

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RCPackerFan's picture

December 07, 2021 at 07:49 am

At this point, I am just looking at what GB has to do to win out. Worry about the controllable.

First thing is getting some key players back. Bakhtiari, Za'Darius, Alexander all sound like they could be back really soon. That would be a very good thing. We will see though. Hopefully Myers can come back as well.

They are coming off a much needed bye week. This will hopefully allow the players that needed a rest to rest up.

I think moving forward AJ Dillon becomes a big part of the offense. Also i think MVS becomes a big part as well.

One week at a time. This week Bears on Sunday night. Lets Go! I'm ready!

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Brockrice99's picture

December 07, 2021 at 08:42 am

Just win out and we did all we can do to shoot for that 1 seed. Hope we can get some help with Arizona maybe dropping 2 and the Buccs dropping one, but if we do our job and win out, we will have no one to blame but ourselves if we do not get the 1 seed.
"Just win baby"

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TarynsEyes's picture

December 07, 2021 at 11:54 am

The playoff picture for GB has been set since the season's start. Where in the seeding was/is the question, but a question that based on prior playoff evidence is of no real matter since the Packers have been able to find a different way to shit the bed in each. The only thing stopping this team is whether they suffer another case of the shits in
which playoff game we know not, but that expectation grows deeper as playoff season nears.

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BruceIrons's picture

December 07, 2021 at 11:02 am

With the Raven losing Humphrey and the inconsistency of their offense (they've been under 20 points their last 4 games), I really think the Packers can finish the season without another loss. They Ravens have also been terrible with turnover differential, while the Packers have feasted.

If the Packers can win out, I'm optimistic that the Cardinals can drop a game along the way and give the Packers the 1 seed. I would love to see the Cardinals and Bucs have to battle it out to come to Green Bay for the NFCCG.

With players coming back from IR, I am as high on the Packers as I have ever been at this stage of the season.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 07, 2021 at 01:01 pm

I really don't like all the "when so-and-so gets back the Pack will be... stuff.

The GBP is 9-3 NOW playing with the guys they have NOW. All that looking forward to other players just takes some focus off the task at hand. Continuing to play the best football in the NFL. Just keep on refining the plan and execution with the guys we have. IF - IF - IF somebody comes back from the IL, just maybe they will get into game shape enough to take the place of somebody who is already playing pretty good football, but I caution against placing too much faith in late replacements making a huge difference.

The guys that got the GBP to 9-3 have the capability to take them to 14-3 and then 3-0 in the playoffs.

Just run the damn ball and continue to grow as a team on both sides of the ball. (please, please - if there is a God in heaven, please do not let the special teams screw this up).

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Ya_tittle's picture

December 07, 2021 at 01:06 pm

I am worried about Special Teams and don't understand WHY this franchise doesn't make it a higher priority!

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