Most expect tonight to be a make-or-break game for the 2016 Green Bay Packers. While it has looked over the last month or so that the Packers have already waved goodbye to the 2016 post-season, the general narrative among Packers’ beat writers and faithful is that it could essentially become official tonight in Philadelphia.
If the Packers lose a fifth consecutive game and slide to 4-7, it is widely believed that their chances of making the playoffs would be sandwiched somewhere between exceedingly slim and none. While from a morale standpoint that may certainly be true, a closer look at the playoff picture shows that, at least statistically, it’s (surprisingly) not.
The team showed signs of life this week, at least in various press conferences. Most notably, Aaron Rodgers said that the team had not given up. He stated that he thought it was very possible that the Packers could “run the table”. While this team currently looks incapable of winning even one game (never mind six in a row), what kind of situation would the Packers find themselves in if they were indeed able to win out?
In short, they’d actually be sitting fairly well. In regard to the Minnesota Vikings, even if they were to win five of their remaining six games, losing only to the Packers, Green Bay would tie their 10-6 record and own the tiebreaker.
While Green Bay has control of their destiny in regard to the Vikings, they would need help to knock off the Detroit Lions. It would not be enough for the Packers to beat Detroit in Week 17. They would need someone else to give Detroit one addition loss.
However, given Detroit’s remaining schedule, this seems not only feasible but highly probable. Detroit must still play New Orleans, Chicago, the New York Giants, and Dallas. With the exception of Chicago, every one of those games is dangerous for Detroit. It’s hard to see the Lions going into Dallas and taking a game from a team that is currently 10-1.
If the Packers could win out and get the help of just one Detroit loss against one of those teams, they would take the NFC North and grab the 4th seed in the NFC playoffs.
Things become significantly gloomier if the Packers finish the season 5-1, but even then the playoffs are not entirely out of reach so long as the Packers take care of their remaining games against Minnesota and Detroit.
Detroit would have to lose against two of the opponents mentioned above (which still seems quite possible) and Minnesota would have to lose one additional game (beside losing against the Packers). Minnesota’s remaining schedule is easier than Detroit’s, but they still have to play Dallas as well. They will also face an Indianapolis Colts team that could be fighting for its own playoff spot, which is not an automatic win for the Vikings.
Finishing 4-2 or worse, however, would essentially eliminate the Packers from the postseason as would dropping their game against Detroit. (It is actually possible for the Packers to lose to Minnesota and still finish atop the NFC North if Minnesota were to lose two of their remaining games.)
Winning the division is a must, however, as it’s really Green Bay’s only way into the dance. The Packers currently sit behind seven teams in the wildcard hunt and would require a legitimate miracle to win a wildcard berth.
Suffice it to say, the Packers could lose tonight in Philadelphia and still make the playoffs. It requires some additional faltering from their NFC North foes, but given their remaining schedules and the relative weakness of the NFC North, this is far from impossible or even unlikely.
Still, the fact remains that this is all hypothetical, and it is contingent upon the Packers essentially doing a 180 mid-season, patching up numerous holes on both sides of the ball and overcoming injuries that they’ve been unable to overcome in recent games. As unimaginable as all that sounds, there is still hope, at least statistically… for now.
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.