The Minnesota Vikings were handed their first loss of the 2016 season on Sunday afternoon by the Philadelphia Eagles. Sam Bradford was pummeled by his old team, getting sacked six times and turning the ball over three times (Bradford actually fumbled a whopping four times but only lost two). It marks the Vikings’ first loss on the season, the fall of the last undefeated team in the NFL.
Even including this largely hapless performance from Minnesota, the Vikings have clearly outplayed their rival Packers, not to mention that Green Bay fell to Minnesota in Week Two by a field goal. With that being said, more than half of the season remains, and the Packers are far from being out of contention for winning the NFC North. The Packers are essentially 1.5 games behind the Vikings, sitting a single game behind them in the standings (Minnesota is 5-1 while Green Bay is 4-2) and having lost their one head-to-head matchup on the year thus far.
On paper, the remaining schedule for the Packers actually looks harder than the Vikings’. The Packers’ remaining opponents are sitting at a collective 36-28 record (.563 winning percentage) while the Vikings’ remaining opponents (as of Sunday afternoon) are sitting at 31-35 (.470 winning percentage). While divisional games always pose a threat to any team, the only non-divisional opponents that would be expected to give the Vikings a run for their money would be Dallas and maybe Washington and Arizona.
Meanwhile, the Packers must still face off against a bevvy of good NFC talent including Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Houston, and Seattle, not to mention another matchup against the Vikings.
However, while Minnesota looks to have an easier road on paper, the games will still be played. The Vikings showed on Sunday that they’re not a perfect team. If Sam Bradford regresses back to his mean, the Vikings will certainly not continue at their current clip. Right now they would be projected to finish the season at about 14-2. That doesn’t seem likely.
The Packers are banged up but still finding ways to win. The defense is feisty, the offense is regaining some confidence behind Ty Montgomery, and either Eddie Lacy or Sam Shields will return toward the end of the season. The Packers have the build and veteran leadership to make up a team that could grow stronger as the season progresses.
All that the Packers need to do is outplay the Vikings by one game before hosting them at Lambeau in Week Sixteen. I might not put my money down on that happening but no one would be all that surprised if it did. If the Packers can avoid the offensive ups-and-downs of 2015, there is an argument to be made that they are still the class of the NFC North. Even if the Packers merely maintain the same pace as Minnesota, a Week Sixteen win at home would erase the Viking’s tie-breaker and leave the divisional crown up for grabs.
For now, however, the Packers need to set their sights simply on stacking wins and grabbing a wildcard berth. If the playoffs started today, the Packers would make the cut, but they can’t sleep on Philadelphia, Arizona, Washington, or even Detroit. As Aaron Rodgers said in 2010, you just have to get in.
From the vantage point of Week Seven, however, the Packers certainly have the potential for more, if they can find some consistency. That is, however, a very large ‘if’.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.