Sep. 23, 2016
Halfway There, But Where Can We Get Help?
At this point, it goes without saying that the Packers can (and need to) run the table to make the playoffs. A 10-6 record is usually good enough for a wild card spot, so chasing Detroit isn't the only thing that the Packers have to worry about. They are one game out of the second wild card spot, which is currently held by Tampa Bay, and also have to fend off the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings (whom the Packers have all lost to). In other words, three of those teams can't make the playoffs if the Packers do, and I'm going to analyze who to cheer for when, and make a case for why these teams are still around.
To start, here are teams that are out of the (relevant) playoff race, or too far out to care about:
-Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Carolina, New Orleans, Chicago, Philadelphia
And here are the teams that are in or virtually in the playoffs:
-Dallas, New York (Giants), Seattle
Those ten teams are teams in the NFC that it is okay to root for (except the Bears obviously) in all circumstances, as they will be playing at least one of the five teams fighting the Packers for the final two playoff spots. The AFC only has one remaining game with these five teams, so that conference is almost irrelevant. So now, here's my analysis of the remaining five, starting with Detroit.
DETROIT LIONS: Remaining schedule---At New York Giants, At Dallas, Green Bay
Obviously, this is the best way in for the Packers. The Giants game I would say is the one that I'd be more worried about if I were a Lions fans, since Dallas at that point could be out of the picture. New York, meanwhile, isn't completely safe yet, as they don't have a soft remaining schedule, and still have a chance to catch Dallas. The Lions also have an injured Matthew Stafford, and while the defense is the best part of this team, Dan Orlovsky is not someone you want playing quarterback. As far as the game with the Packers goes, they will be playing on a short week, since that Dallas game is the final Monday Night Football game of the regular season. Theoretically, Detroit could lose every game, but I think 1-2 is more likely, and hopefully that win is not against the Packers.
ATLANTA FALCONS: Remaining schedule---San Francisco, At Carolina, New Orleans
It's most beneficial for Green Bay if the Falcons to win the NFC South, as they hold a tiebreaker vs. the Packers after they started our four game losing streak with a win in the Georgia Dome. Winning the South shouldn't be too difficult, as they have a home game vs. the second worst team in football, and finish at home against New Orleans. Carolina is also not what they were last year, but that game is still by far the toughest one left. I think the Falcons will win the NFC South, and their offense (and Vic Beasley) will carry them there.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Remaining schedule---At Dallas, At New Orleans, Carolina
This team, led by second year pro QB Jameis Winston, kind of came out of nowhere. They were dead in the water, like the Packers, with a 3-5 record, and now they are in the second wild card spot holding an 8-5 record. This team has a much improved defense, led by DT Gerald McCoy, OLB Lavonte David, and CB Brent Grimes, and the offense has moderate playmakers around Winston and WR Mike Evans.
As far as the schedule goes, New Orleans is always a tough place to play, and Dallas still has something to play for especially after being embarrassed offensively by the Giants. Both of those games are lose-able, and a home game with Carolina isn't on Easy Street either. Carolina still has their pride to play for, and should Tampa Bay win the two games before them, Carolina might take pride in playing spoiler for the Buccaneers. This Tampa Bay team is not good enough to win eight in a row.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Remaining schedule---Carolina, At Chicago, New York Giants
Green Bay fans should become Carolina fans, as every game the Panthers have is against a team that the Packers would like to lose. The Carolina game is the most important for the Packers in my opinion, since the Bears are the Bears, and the Giants might not have anything to play for come week 17. It's definitely possible for the Bears to beat the Redskins, anything is except when you are the Cleveland Browns, but I wouldn't count on it. The hope is for the Redskins to lose at home, and that the Giants still have something to play for in Week 17. Also, the Redskins have a tie, so they can't theoretically tie in the standings with the Packers (unless the Packers get a tie).
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Remaining schedule---Indianapolis, At Green Bay, Chicago
This is the only game vs. an AFC opponent, and it's against a Colts team with something to play for. The Colts are still chasing the division in the AFC South, and they virtually need to win out to make the postseason. As far as the game against Chicago is concerned, that game could become irrelevant by the time it comes around. The week 16 matchup between the Packers and the Vikings will essentially eliminate the other from postseason contention. The Packers must win week 16 if they want to make the playoffs, and if they don't catching Detroit will be almost impossible (since they will have to lose out), and the Vikings will have to lose to both the Colts and the Bears. Not likely to happen, and it won't likely happen should we lose any games.