GREEN BAY – That's right, Path to the Playoffs is back, by popular demand, and thanks to the Packers putting together a three-game winning streak to now have a realistic shot at a postseason spot.
For those unfamiliar, this column – a weekly late-season staple on packers.com in recent years – examines the playoff scenarios as they relate to the Packers and provides the rooting interests in other games to help the home club.
So without further ado, let's get into it …
At 7-8 with two home games remaining, the Packers remain in the hunt for an NFC wild card. But they need to keep winning, and they still need some help.
Here is the simplest way to explain how the Packers can earn a playoff spot.
They must beat Minnesota and Detroit to finish 9-8 and then have one of the following two things happen:
- Washington Commanders (7-7-1) lose once.
- New York Giants (8-6-1) lose twice.
That's it. That's how it'll get done.
There are some very convoluted scenarios whereby the Packers could split their final two games and still make the playoffs, but the bottom line is their chances aren't good that way. They just aren't.
Clearly, the focus this week is on beating the Vikings and rooting against Washington and New York.
Both of those teams play Sunday in the early window, prior to the 3:25 p.m. CT kickoff of the Packers-Vikings game. Washington is hosting Cleveland (6-9), while New York hosts Indianapolis (4-10-1), with the Giants able to clinch their own wild-card spot with a win.
So while waiting for Green Bay and Minnesota to take the field, cheer for the Browns to beat the Commanders, and for the Colts to knock off the Giants.
That's not all this week, though. Because if the Giants lose (failing to clinch a playoff spot) and/or if the Commanders win, the Packers could need one or both to lose in Week 18, and they will be playing against their NFC East rivals at the top of the division, Philadelphia (13-2) and Dallas (11-4).
The Eagles are one win away from clinching the NFC East, plus the conference's top seed and first-round playoff bye, while the Cowboys still have a chance to catch them for the division title and not be relegated to the No. 5 seed as the NFC's top wild card.
Due to all that, it would behoove the Packers for both Philly and Dallas to be fighting for the best possible position in Week 18, rather than being locked into their seeds with nothing to play for when they face New York and Washington, respectively.
In that vein, it's best to root for the Cowboys to beat the Titans (7-8) on Thursday Night Football, and for the Saints (6-9) to upset the Eagles on Sunday in another early game.
Now, you may also be wondering about the Seahawks (7-8) and the Lions (7-8), who both remain in the NFC playoff hunt as well. If Green Bay wins out, nothing Seattle or Detroit does would pertain to the Packers, because Green Bay owns the conference-record tiebreaker over Seattle if both finish 9-8, and the Packers would be handing the Lions their ninth loss in that case.
So the games pitting the New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle and Chicago (3-12) at Detroit don't mean a whole lot.
If you want to begin aligning the stars so the Packers possibly could still make the playoffs in Week 18 even with a loss to the Vikings on Sunday, go ahead and pull for the Jets to beat the Seahawks and the Bears to beat the Lions.
But it's not going to matter, right? Right?