It’s hard to ever define a mid-season game as “season saving”. There are 16 of them after all. Sunday’s victory over the Vikings was about as big as they get. Coming off of a three game losing streak many (including this writer) were starting to panic. The Packers were underdogs for the first time this season and were staring at a four game skid.
This wasn’t a big win because of quality of opponent. Yes the Vikings were leading the division, but this was not this year’s win over Seattle or last year’s home win over the Patriots. In fact, of the seven wins Green Bay has Minnesota (16th) ranks as just the third most impressive victory. It’s a bigger deal that the Packers won a game on the road against a team with a winning record than it is that they beat Minnesota.
The consequences of a loss were very clear: road playoff games. The Packers would have had almost no chance at a division championship and certainly no shot at a bye if they had lost on Sunday. Without Jordy Nelson this team’s margin for error is much slimmer. Fewer bad things have to happen to the Packers for them to miss out on Super Bowl 50. It’s not only important for Green Bay to play games at home, but to play fewer games. Winning the division and a bye week are important.
Packers fans (myself included) are not impressed by division championships. It’s Super Bowl or bust. That’s the standard that has been set. It has been fun winning four consecutive division championships in a row and exerting dominance over Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit but these last four seasons have all ended in heartbreak.
At 6-4, just because of how bad the middle class of the NFC seems to be, this would still be a playoff season. The Packers would certainly still have a chance at the Super Bowl. Any time you have Aaron Rodgers you have a chance. The only time they’ve won the Super Bowl in the last 18 years was a playoff run in three opposing stadiums, including obliterating the NFC’s #1 seed at home.
This team doesn’t seem to be built that way. This team plays better at home. Yes, I know the last home game was the Lions game. The Packers looked awful and they lost to a bad team. There’s no question about that. It doesn’t change the fact that the best way to get the 2015 Packers to the Super Bowl is to get a bye and play at least one playoff game at Lambeau Field.
At 7-3, this team has hope. It controls its own destiny. The Packers have the lead in the division because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. I’m not really concerned about the Vikings any more. They will be underdogs in their next three games and the idea of Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Zimmer beating Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy (if it comes down to that) in a must-win game at Lambeau Field is unlikely at best.
If the Packers can get through the next two games against Chicago and Detroit (27th and 28th in DVOA), they will sit at 9-3, right on schedule for a 12-4 season. It will also provide the team with a “mini-bye” as the Packers will have ten days off to prepare for Dallas. This sets up a doozy in Phoenix against the Cardinals in week 16. It’s likely that a win in Arizona will provide the Packers with the #2 seed in the NFC (no one is catching Carolina I don’t think). A loss and Green Bay will have to host the #6 seed at home during Wild Card weekend and will go back to Phoenix for the divisional game.
Green Bay has a chance. All of the goals that the Packers set out at the beginning of the season are in front of them. A loss to Minnesota on Sunday would have ended that and put Green Bay in catch-up mode immediately. It was a big, big win.