With the Green Bay Packers not playing Sunday the results of the day did not go in their favor. The Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals all came away victorious and the Philadelphia Eagles –who the Packers own a tiebreaker over– lost to Seattle. The Dallas Cowboys also won on Thursday. This leaves Arizona with 10 wins, and Seattle, Detroit, Philadelphia and Dallas all have nine.
Normally an NFL team that is 9-3 and has won eight out of its last nine games can take a little breather. However, the Packers cannot afford that luxury with the strength of the NFC. They have Detroit right on its tail for the division and Seahawks for home field advantage. The Packers need to avoid being a wild card or having to go to Seattle. They have games they should win coming up against Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Buffalo, although I think Buffalo on the road could present a tough challenge. Green Bay cannot afford any slip ups in these games before the season finale against Detroit.
It’s very possible that an 11-5 NFC team could miss the playoffs. Lets look at the remaining schedules of the NFC contenders.
Detroit: Minnesota, @Chicago, @Green Bay
Philly: Dallas, @Wahsington, @NY Giants
Dallas: @Philly, Indianapolis, @Washington
Seattle: San Francisco, @Arizona, St. Louis
None of those teams face very daunting schedules. They can all definitely win two out of their last three games to get to 11 wins. They’re all playing mostly division games , which is tough, but they should be favored in most of them. The Packers need to get to 12 wins to feel really safe and avoid a lot of tie breaking scenarios. Of course winning 12 might not even be enough for home field with Arizona and Seattle currently owning tiebreakers over them.
The Packers certainly look like the best team in the NFC right now and are playing the best. However, as we’ve seen this year more than any other if you lose focus anybody can come up and surprise you. Mike McCarthy’s words that this is his most consistent team will be put up to the test over the final month of the regular season.
This is why all the hype surrounding the Patriots game was over the top. Clearly, that was a statement game for the Packers and it meant a little something more to them, but with the standings as tight as they are all the games are that important. Even a game that they are 13.5 point favorites in. That is the beauty of the NFL with only 16 game regular seasons.
December has been a dominant month for the Packers under McCarthy, as they’re 22-10 in the month during his tenure. It’s imperative that they keep that trend going. Lambeau Field has been an imposing place for visitors of late and that only gets ratcheted up in December.
The Packers have done a good job of not falling for trap games and burying a lot of the weaker teams in the NFL recently, even though they haven’t always done as well against the top tier ones. That should be good news for the next three games as the Packers look to maintain their edge in the NFC with little margin for error.