GREEN BAY—This weekly column has focused on telling you for whom to cheer to help the Packers, but entering Week 16, the Packers no longer need any help.
But they will if they lose on Sunday, so please keep reading.
As I’m sure you know by now, if the Packers win their last two games, vs. Pittsburgh and at Chicago, they will win the NFC North and host a playoff game on wild-card weekend.
But is there a way the Packers can still make the playoffs without winning their final two games?
Yes, there is.
Going 0-2 is not an option, however, no matter how much other help comes Green Bay’s way.
Going 1-1? Yeah, that can work, but know this: The one win has to be against the Bears.
As long as that’s the case, then the Packers can make the playoffs provided the Bears and Lions each lose one other game.
So, that means you should root for the Eagles to beat the Bears on Sunday night, should the Packers lose to the Steelers in the late afternoon. The Packers can’t win the division this weekend, but they can be eliminated, and that’s where the Bears-Eagles game comes in. A Packers loss and a Bears win on Sunday would knock the Packers out, simple as that.
If the Packers beat the Steelers, however, the Bears-Eagles game is meaningless to you. Whether Chicago wins or loses that one, the Packers would have to beat the Bears next week anyway.
You should also pull for the Giants to defeat the Lions, just in case the Packers would lose to the Steelers. In that scenario, the Packers would need Detroit to lose one of its last two. One more loss by the Lions, who have lost four of their last five games, would eliminate Detroit from the playoff picture entirely.
But again, if the Packers beat the Steelers, the Lions-Giants game on Sunday joins the Bears-Eagles game on the “doesn’t matter” list. In fact, if the Packers beat the Steelers, the Lions no longer matter to you at all.
OK, if this discussion is starting to muddy up what you had previously seen clearly, then let’s take a step back. Here’s the best way to crystallize the NFC North chase, as it stands right now:
If the Packers win their remaining two games (vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago), they win the division.
If the Bears win their remaining two games (at Philadelphia, vs. Green Bay), they win the division.
If the Lions win their remaining two games (vs. N.Y. Giants, at Minnesota), and the Bears and Packers lose once each, Detroit wins the division.
If you’ve got that, then you’re good.
Also get this: The division title is Green Bay’s only path to the postseason.
The Packers have been mathematically eliminated from wild-card contention, so there are no games outside the NFC North that have any Packers-related consequences.
Nothing has more consequences, of course, than Packers vs. Steelers at 3:25 p.m. CT Sunday. Win that, and it gets real simple in Week 17.
For all of the week's Packers-Steelers preview headlines, click here.