Earning the Bye Would Really Help the Packers in the Playoffs

There has been talk among some Packers fans that the team may be better off not earning a first-round bye in part because they say the team has struggled in games after their bye week in recent seasons.

While Green Bay may not have played their best at times after byes, the statistical evidence points to the bye being a big advantage for teams competing in the NFC playoffs. The Packers should do all they can to secure the top seed and the only bye in the playoffs this season.

So, let’s get this out of the way first. How have the Packers done after byes recently? This season, they played their worst game after the bye, a 38-10 loss to the Bucs. In 2019, we know the Packers struggled during the regular season after they bye, getting blown out by the 49ers.

But things are different in the playoffs. The competition is tougher and it’s win and go home. Last year, under Matt LaFleur, the Packers earned a first round by in the playoffs and soundly defeated the Seahawks to advance to the NFC Championship Game. The bye certainly didn’t hurt the Packers then.

There are several reasons for the Packers to want the bye. Let’s start with simple math: it is easier to win two games to reach the Super Bowl than it is to win three games to get to get there. One less round is one less obstacle and one less quality opponent you need to overcome.

In the playoffs, the Packers record after byes is solid. Since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback in 2008, the Packers have earned a bye in the playoffs three times. Their record in the first game after the bye is 2-1. In 2019, the Packers beat Seattle 28-23. In 2014, Green Bay handled the Cowboys 26-21. The only blemish came in 2011 when the Giants upset the top-seeded Packers 37-20.

We’ve already heard Rodgers talk about the importance of playing an NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers has started four NFC title games since becoming the Packers starting quarterback and all of them have been on the road. Green Bay’s record in those four games is 1-3-0.

The pattern continues throughout the playoffs. It’s always better to be the home team than the road team. Under Rodgers, the Packers are 4-2 at home in the playoffs and 5-6 on the road.

In addition, if the Packers are the top seed, they’ll have home field advantage in every game they play in the postseason. That matters in the playoffs, especially in the NFC title game. In the last seven NFC Championship Games, the home team is 6-1.

By earning the bye, the Packers also guarantee that they will face the lowest ranked opponent remaining in the playoffs each game. Realistically, that can mean one easier game and a chance to avoid playing a very tough opponent right away. Good teams may also knock each other off in the earlier rounds which only makes the path easier.

There’s also a chance to rest up and recover from injuries and allow the potential opponent to get banged up and sore while playing the extra game.

This year, the advantage of playing home may be even greater than usual. Many of the Packers potential opponents play in warm weather cities or in domes. There is a big difference playing teams like New Orleans, Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams or Tampa Bay on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field than under the pleasant weather in those cities or the ideal conditions of a dome.

For most other NFC playoff teams, their road records are significantly worse than their home records. Entering Week 17, the Seahawks are 7-1 at home and 4-3 on the road. The Rams are 5-2 at home and 4-4 on the road. The Saints are 6-2 at home and 5-2 on the road. The only major contender with a better road record than home record this season is Tampa Bay who is 6-2 on the road and 4-3 at home.

The Packers live, practice and play in the cold weather. They know how to adjust to it and handle it better than teams who are unfamiliar with playing in those conditions. It gives the home team an extra psychological advantage.

In the last eight years, the NFC Super Bowl representative had a bye in the first round. The last time that did not happen was 2011 when the New York Giants represented the NFC as a wild card entrant.

The Packers would clearly benefit from earning the bye. It would make their path to the Super Bowl easier and that’s always a good thing. Trips to the Super Bowl are hard to come by as Packers fans know only too well. Anything Matt LaFleur’s team can do to increase their odds is always welcome. So, Go Pack Go on Sunday, beat the Bears, earn the top seed and the bye and set yourself up for shorter path to the Super Bowl.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (51)

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Swisch's picture

January 02, 2021 at 12:21 pm

In 2010, the Packers don't even make the playoffs if they don't beat the Bears in the last game of the regular season.
A few weeks later, the Packers beat the Bears again, this time for the NFC Championship -- with Rodgers tackling Urlacher in the open field after an interception to save a touchdown, and Raji dropping back in coverage to snag a pick-six -- and then go on to win the Super Bowl.
I think a team always plays hard and smart for the win, and for the bye, and for homefield advantage.
I want the Packers to always play hard and smart against the Bears, and to be ready for physical ferocity.
My pick is that the Packers beat the Bears tomorrow, but we'd better be ready for a heavyweight fight.

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:33 pm

No doubt it won't be easy. Rivalry games are always tougher than the records indicate they will be and the Bears have a lot on the line. Thanks for the comment, Swisch.

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PeteK's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:04 pm

Will also get this O line some more reps against a good D.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:33 pm

And give them time to adjust to life without Bakhtiari. Thanks for the comment, PeteK.

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Qoojo's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:44 pm

I do agree that the bye will help the packers. An extra week off is really helpful after the along season, along with no travel.

Bye in the playoffs means a week off and playing at home after the bye. Bye in the regular season, just means a week off and potentially a home game, but the coaches know who they play next for the entire two weeks. That's why the drop in performance is more disappointing for me.

This year there is less of an advantage to playing at home due to crowd noise not being a factor, but everything else still applies. During the playoffs, I don't think cold is as much of a favorable factor for the home team as it is made out to be, especially for championship games. Too many times I've seen cold weather home teams lose to warm weather teams.

It always comes down to protecting the ball. Generally, the defense that forces the turnovers is going to win.

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:37 pm

Thanks for the comment, Qoojo. I do think there is still an advantage for the home team even with an empty or near empty stadium. This has been a strange year all the way around. We are already seeing the Saints being shorthanded at RB for Week 17. I hope Covid-19 doesn't play a large role in the playoffs.

Even if the bye means a little less than in a normal year, I'd rather have it than not have it. Thanks for commenting.

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Qoojo's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:45 pm

No argument from me. I think the Saints would have the most issues playing in GB. Brady has plenty of experience in cold. I have not watched the Rams enough to know how they would do.

One of my favorite memories of a cold weather team vs warm weather team was when I lived in IL in the 80s, and all I heard about was how the 49ers were "coming to play in bear weather". Then bears lost 28-3 in the 88 NFC Championship.

It's hard to forget the beating that the warm weather dome team Atlanta put on the packers.

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Bearmeat's picture

January 02, 2021 at 01:10 pm

Sorry to sound like a jerk, but fans that don't want a bye and home-field advantage don't know football history.

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mnbadger's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:18 pm

you sound like smart fan to me, in no way a jerk. Not getting the bye means we have to lose. Only a real jerk would hope for that to happen in any scenario. Pack 23-16. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:42 pm

I'd totally take 23-16. Any win gives us the bye and any win over the Bears is a good win. Thanks for the comment, mnbadger.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 02, 2021 at 06:32 pm

Lombardi would have none of this.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Lombardi even liked to win preseason games. Thanks for the comment, Tundraboy.

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:38 pm

Agreed, Bearmeat. It's a shortsighted way of thinking. Thanks for commenting.

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Coldworld's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:59 pm

There is still some home field advantage at Lambeau in a year where many stadia have lacked it. I think health is the key. Let’s hope that we emerge healthy from Soldier Field. That to me is the biggest concern at this point.

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PeteK's picture

January 02, 2021 at 06:10 pm

Yes, Look at NO,Tampa, and Clev.

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PeteK's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:19 pm

I fully agree , but understand because we got burnt by the Gents. I think that loss is still a bit haunting. Also, we got to the SB as an away team.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:42 pm

We did, PeteK in 2010, but the fact that it was a big deal for a 6th seed to get there by winning three straight road games should be remembered. It's doable, but not as easy as winning 2 home games to get there. Thanks for the comment.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 02, 2021 at 06:01 pm

The only justification to not take a bye and home field is based on small samples and recency bias. The overwhelming majority of Superbowl winners had a 1 or 2 seed.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Exactly jeremyjjbrown. And now only the one seed gets the bye (although I'm sure there will be 8 playoff teams in each conference within 5 years and then no bye). Thanks for the comment.

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splitpea1's picture

January 02, 2021 at 01:25 pm

The simple math and the extra week of rest and preparation are what it's about here. But like Qoojo, I don't think the supposed cold weather advantage is a big deal in the playoffs; you're still playing a quality opponent, and besides, you almost can't count the number of times a warm weather team has won on a cold weather team's home turf. We may either get to see Tampa Bay or the Rams, both of whom have solid defenses that could pose a problem for our reshuffled O-line. I like our chances against the Rams much better, though, if we were to play them.

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Todd's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:23 pm

I tend to agree with you re: the cold weather advantage now a days. Maybe in decades past it truly was an advantage. However, the mystique of the Frozen Tundra took a beating and essentially died when Atlanta came up to Green Bay and beat the Packers in '03.

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Coldworld's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:03 pm

I’d say you saw some of the advantage last week. There is also the mystique of Lambeau. Don’t discount it, though they now have heated turf. It’s not easy for dome or warm weather teams to adjust, especially as there have been few cold games this year.

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PeteK's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:26 pm

It does work out differently sometimes, but I agree with Coldworld ,LOL, it's still a familiarity advantage.

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splitpea1's picture

January 02, 2021 at 06:01 pm

I'd say the cold weather "mystique" is largely due to playing better than your opponent and taking advantage of opportunities in the game. Following up on Todd's point, mystique was nowhere to be found against the Vikings the next year (26 degrees at game time), as we gave up 17 first quarter points, and not surprisingly, lost. Nor did it show up in Micah Hyde's fingers nine years later against SF when it was 5 degrees outside.

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:39 pm

Agreed Tampa Bay would be a problem because of their defense, but I'd still rather play them in Green Bay in January than in Tampa. And dome teams like the Saints have struggled in the elements in the playoffs historically. Should be an exciting playoffs in the NFC this year. Thanks for commenting, splitpea1, always good to hear from you.

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splitpea1's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:30 pm

Definitely. But I was just guarding against putting too much stock in the weather. In the championship games, the first examples that came to mind were: TB at Eagles (24 degrees), SD at Pitt (a balmy 59, but fog and rain), and the best, from most Packers fan's perspective, SF at the Bears (17 degrees and a wind chill of -26). Note that all three of the winners had very good defenses.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Agreed splitpea1, I'd rather face the Rams (if they get in) than the Bucs. It's a matchup issue I think, the way their speedy linebackers and strong front 7give us problems. Thanks for the comment.

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Todd's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:28 pm

Gil...I agree with you re: the benefits of the bye week. However, regarding the cold weather advantage, dome teams, and such. Atlanta pounded the Pack in January 2003. Ever since then the playoffs and the Lambeau home field advantage seems to have lost it's luster a bit.

Now that said, I still strongly believe our chances of winning by playing at Lambeau in January against a warm weather or dome team, are better than having to go to their place and win.

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GilMartin's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:41 pm

Agree 100 percent Todd. Nothing is full proof. I remember that game vs Atlanta well, the Pack had no answer for Michael Vick's running. Don't see a quarterback like that in the playoffs this year with the possible exception of Murray of Arizona and he's not healthy right now. Hoping for the bye and a long playoff run. Thanks for commenting.

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GregC's picture

January 02, 2021 at 02:52 pm

Agreed Gil, this is as easy as it sounds: The bye is better. I wasn't feeling good about home field advantage in the cold until the Packers easily beat the Titans in the snow last week. I still think wind could be a problem, as the Packer offense struggled with it earlier in the season, but A.J. Dillion could help there, and the Packers' run defense has improved, which also helps a lot if they play in windy conditions.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Having Dillon, Williams and Jones all available in the cold Januarys on the Frozen Tundra is a big advantage. And yes, the improved run defense matters. I also love that Pettine came up with different alignments against the Titans to slow down their biggest weapon. Thanks for the comment, GregC.

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Ryan3468's picture

January 02, 2021 at 03:30 pm

It’s time to play defense and run the ball. Sunday will be an accurate test for what lays directly ahead of this team.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:51 pm

Welcome to January football. You nailed it Ryan3468, thanks for the comment.

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PhantomII's picture

January 02, 2021 at 04:09 pm

First I am one who said the Pack normally comes out flat after a long week or Bye....because they did. I would also say our Offense would
not look smooth while putting up points and to a degree went away from the running game and instead of just taking what was given and moving the chains went to low percentage completion longer throws and let pressure get to Rodgers compounding the poor or abandoned run game at that point. The Defense was a sieve also back then. Changes: Pettine used 3-4 DL fronts this last game I have been screaming for for a year and they did really well. Our OLB's set the edge really well and made the runs go inside for a tougher going. The inside guys and ILB's clogged up the run lanes and our Secondary played really well with a boat load of pass defensed and a couple INT's. With Dillon making his mark also we now have a reliable heavy run game between the tackles and Jones ability to bounce outside. We have come a long way as a Team. We are playing our best ball on Offense and Defense regardless of Bak going down. ML needs to get Rodgers to pass to someone other than Adams to get it to next level Offense. Most teams are not stupid enough not to double team Adams. I am looking forward to Dillon and Jones on the field at the same time, pick your poison. Tonyan was a QB before and would be nice to see a couple design TE throws downfield or RB throws. Maybe in the playoffs after the half. One can only hope. I'm all for an extra week as long as they use it to come out Hot.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:55 pm

I can totally understand your concerns PhantomII and based on recent history, there are reasons for them. I hope the way Pettine adjusted against Tennessee bodes well. The bye will also give the Packers more time to prepare for the first playoff game. I also agree the offense is better when the ball is spread around and Adams is the most frequent target but far from the only one. Fingers crossed LaFleur adjusts his game plans for the opponent and the weather. Thanks for the comment.

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stockholder's picture

January 02, 2021 at 04:27 pm

Your Right Gil. Get them at home. The weather conditions are in are favor. Let it Snow!

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Thanks for the comment, stockholder. Happy new year.

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Lphill's picture

January 02, 2021 at 05:20 pm

It’s very possible the saints and Seahawks lose tomorrow, so I think even if the packers lost they would still be number 1, but I don’t see the Packers losing.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:57 pm

I'd take the top seed any way we can get it. I don't think we'll lose either. Thanks for the comment, Lphill.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 02, 2021 at 06:25 pm

All I know is I want to beat the Bears even more than usual. The stakes and momentum gained are undeniable. I feel even more stress than when we played them with less at stake that November with Bart in the house. Wanted so much to give Bart that experience after all he has been to the Team. This will go a long way in taking some of the sting away. Knocking them out when their hopes (delusions) are at their highest!.Hope Ditka and all the rest are there too!

On to Chicago. GPG

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 12:59 pm

Always sweet to beat the Bears and even sweeter if we knock them out of the playoffs (although they can still get in if they lose and the Cards lose). It would also be our 100th regular season win over the Bears all-time. Thanks for the comment and have a happy new year.

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NickPerry's picture

January 02, 2021 at 07:25 pm

The Packers record under MLF after a bye week is the ONLY thing I can think of where a person wouldn't want the #1 seed. All I can say to those people is look at last week and what happened. Except for the snow the Packers looked like they were playing the Titans in a game in September, not December.

The Bears have been beating up on some really bad teams on this 3 game skid. I know you can only play who's on the schedule but lets not get it twisted, the Bears SUCK and so does Trubisky. The dude just didn't learn to play QB these last 3 weeks. Play the Bears much like they did the Titans on Defense. DO NOT let Montgomery get going, and keep Robinson in check. IF they do that the Packers will cruise. BURY them by halftime and get that bye!

#16 Quarters!!

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 01:00 pm

Solid game plan, NickPerry. A win ends all debate and the top spot in the conference is ours. Thanks for the comment and Happy New Year.

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Since'61's picture

January 02, 2021 at 08:46 pm

The Packers should want to play for the bye. Not just for home field but more for the week off. The bye is critical for 3 reasons at least for the Packers.

First, the Bears game will be their 12th consecutive game without a bye. That’s a long haul for any team. They need a physical and mental break at this point. Second is the one less game to win to reach the SB. Third is that the coaches think through the best approach for the OL now that Bak has gone down.

Beyond that are all the usual reasons for playing at home. Familiarity with the surface, no travel, maybe some crowd noise if the Packers allow more fans into the stadium and yes, the weather. Just consider the impact the weather had on the Titans. It was a factor.

I would rather play in Green Bay than in Tampa, LA or New Orleans with an additional week to prepare and reset the OL. Thanks, Since ‘61

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 01:01 pm

Very well said, Since'61. There are plenty of reasons to want that bye and precious few not to. Thanks for the comment. Wishing you a very happy and healthy new year.

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raedwallaceee's picture

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DTomasLazauska's picture

January 03, 2021 at 11:19 am

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Mojo's picture

January 03, 2021 at 01:00 pm

Some amazing facts about the bye week.

50% of the first round non-bye playoff teams lose. Since, for the most part, the playoff teams have the leagues best records this is a big step down from their regular season percentages (forget the NFC East for now).

Teams that have a first round bye have moved onto the second round every time. Yup, 100%.

Those simple stats alone should convince some people why getting the bye is important.

And GB - watch out for da Bears to pull some trickery. I could see a fake punt or run -toss back to the QB crap or weird reverses. The Ursas have nothing to lose.

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GilMartin's picture

January 03, 2021 at 01:03 pm

I agree the Bears will pull out all the stops and open their bag of tricks to try to pull the upset. Hope the Packers are ready for it and lock up the bye. Thanks for the comment, Mojo and happy new year.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:09 pm

That 1st round bye and playing at Lambeau is worth is weight in gold. Players who spent the year playing in a domed stadium or warm weather location are going to be in for a rough outing. I was born in Wisconsin and remained there I finished college and moved to California. While I lived in the state, I could go outside in a short sleeved shirt when the temperature would be in the 40's. Two years ago, I went back in October to a Packer game and the temperature was lower than what I had expected and hovered around 50 degrees. My wife, two friends from California, and I sat in those stands and shivered. That would never have happened to me while I lived there and loved to go to the cold weather games at Lambeau. If you aren't used to the cold weather it is going to negatively affect how you play the game. Big advantage Green Bay.

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CarmenJs's picture

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