GREEN BAY – Yes, it's back.
"Path to the Playoffs" has returned to packers.com, your weekly look at the NFC postseason picture, how the Packers fit into it, which games on the NFL schedule can impact Green Bay, and where your rooting interests as fans should lie.
For those wondering, the Packers cannot actually clinch a playoff spot this week with a home win over Washington. Should Green Bay get its 10th win, it can't be guaranteed a postseason berth just yet. But more on that later.
At the moment, the Packers lead the NFC North at 9-3, one game ahead of 8-4 Minnesota, but trailing three other 10-2 teams – NFC West co-leaders Seattle and San Francisco, and NFC South champion New Orleans (the Saints clinched their division title on Thanksgiving night). NFC East leader Dallas is 6-7.
The top two teams in the NFC will get first-round byes, so the Packers' perspective is this: It's a three-horse race for the top two spots among the Saints and the champs of the West and North. Seattle and San Francisco can't both get a bye because they're from the same division. The runner-up in the West will likely be the No. 5 seed.
With all that in mind, here's the rundown of the games that matter this week:
Detroit (3-8-1) at Minnesota (8-4)
Vikings' remaining opponents: at Chargers, vs. Packers, at Bears
The division title is the first priority for the Packers, so an upset loss by the Vikings at home would be a nice early holiday gift.
Root for: Lions
San Francisco (10-2) at New Orleans (10-2)
49ers' remaining opponents: vs. Falcons, vs. Rams, at Seahawks
Saints' remaining opponents: vs. Colts, at Titans, at Panthers
They don't get much bigger or better than this one for Week 14 in the NFL, a pair of teams with double-digit wins. As outlined earlier, the Saints are already a division champ and looking for a first-round bye, while the 49ers are still battling for their division and might end up with a wild card. Therefore, even though it may seem natural to want the 49ers to lose after the Packers lost to them recently, the Saints losing would help the Packers more.
Root for: 49ers
Seattle (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-5)
Seahawks' remaining opponents: at Panthers, vs. Cardinals, vs. 49ers
Rams' remaining opponents: at Cowboys, at 49ers, vs. Cardinals
This one is a little tricky. The point earlier about the Packers being unable to clinch a playoff spot this week? That's mainly because of the Rams, who are still very much in the picture. So the short-sighted view, looking at what secures Green Bay's postseason bid the fastest, would be a Rams loss. But with the Seahawks among those competitors for a top-two seed and bye, the bigger picture says a Seattle loss would be more beneficial. As long as the Packers take care of business on Sunday …
Root for: Rams
New York Giants (2-10) at Philadelphia (5-7)
Eagles' remaining opponents: at Redskins, vs. Cowboys, at Giants
The Monday night game is listed only for those who want to cover all their bases. Why? Because, mathematically, it's possible for the Packers and Eagles to finish tied at 9-7, and the Eagles would have a wild-card tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win in Week 4. So this game could be in play if the Packers don't get their 10th victory.
Root for: Giants (but it doesn't matter if the Packers win Sunday)