Now that we know that Aaron Rodgers will be back under center for the final three games (injury permitting), Packers fans everywhere can start to watch the scoreboards to see where they stand among the NFC field. Currently in 9th place with 3 games to play, there is a lot that is needed before they can get into the tournament. Besides just winning out against the Panthers, Vikings, and Lions, they also need some stumbles from the Falcons, Seahawks, and Carolina.
With that being said, as long as the Packers are still in the race, I will be predicting the games that matter the most for the Packers, from their wild card competitors, the Vikings, and of course, the Packers themselves. So let’s go.
Green Bay @ Carolina (Sunday at Noon)
We’ll start with the one that matter most. For the Packers to have a realistic shot at the postseason, they’ll need to go into Charlotte and take down the Panthers. And that is entirely do-able, especially with Aaron Rodgers. The Panthers offense is very Jekyll and Hyde with a strong running game, but a suspect and inconsistent passing attack. The key for the Packers defense will be to keep Cam Newton in the pocket and force a turnover or two. I think they at least cause a turnover or two, specifically a Damarious Randall interception and a Kenny Clark fumble recovery.
Offensively, the Packers are finally as close to full strength as they’ve been all year. With QB1 back and the emergence of the rookie running backs, the Packers offense can definitely score. The Panthers have a dynamite pass rush spearheaded by the ageless Julius Peppers. But I think a key will be to stop the interior rush of Kawann Short. And luckily the Packers have a lineman who has gone against him twice a year for the past half decade until this year. Jahri Evans will be as valuable this week as ever if the offense is to succeed.
For the final score itself, I think the two turnovers will be enough as the Packers capitalize on them to survive. Packers win 31-20.
Chicago @ Detroit (Saturday at 3:30)
Currently at 7-6, the Lions aren’t someone the Packers are worried about unless Green Bay were to lose before Week 17. But they are still around the race, and face a Bears team that is looking to end the season strong for their rookie quarterback and coaching staff. And that makes the bears a dangerous team to play this late in the year. Coming off a big win against the Bengals last week, the Bears are the most confident they’ve been all year and I think they’ll ride the duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen against a undermanned Lion defense to a one score win. Chicago ends the Lions playoff hopes with a 24-13 win.
Cincinnati @ Minnesota (Sunday at Noon)
The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win, and don’t think they don’t have that at the forefront of their locker room. They have a dominant defense and seem to found a way to make Case Keenum into a legitimate starting quarterback. On the other side, the Bengals are playing for literally nothing. Marvin Lewis is a lame duck coach and Andy Dalton is facing serious questions about his long-term future. That leads to a blowout. Vikings clinch the NFC North with a 37-10 win.
New York Jets @ New Orleans (Sunday at Noon)
New Orleans currently has first place in the NFC South, but if they were to drop behind either Carolina or Atlanta, they have the head-to-head over Green Bay. But against Bryce Petty and the Jets, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about this week. Saints keep the NFC South lead with a 41-17 win.
LA Rams @ Seattle (Sunday at 3:05)
Probably the best game of the week in the NFC, the Rams and Seahawks are only a game apart in the NFC West. The Rams offense is one of the very best in the league while the Seahawks, while undermanned, are still a strong defense. The key here is Troy Gurley. If he can get going and control the clock and wear down the Seahawks defense, the Rams should win. And I think they will. Rams take a 2-game lead over Seattle, 27-17
Dallas at Oakland (Sunday at 7:30)
Don’t look now, but with Zeke Elliott back in a week, the Cowboys are technically still in it. They need more help than Green Bay, but they aren’t dead (yet). And they take on arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this year in the Raiders. Between a sieve-like defense and the disappearance of Amari Cooper, the Raiders are a mess. And Dallas will take advantage. Cowboys win 24-20.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay (Monday at 7:30)
This is the team the Packers are relying on the most to lose, so of course the Falcons take on the Buccaneers. Atlanta has the head-to-head tiebreaker, but they are in a Wild Card spot right now. They need to lose twice for the Packers to overtake them. It won’t start this week though. Tampa Bay is more talented then they’ve shown, but that’s not enough. Falcons win 31-17
So after all my predictions, the Packers would still be on the outside looking in if they hold, but it’s a brighter future. The Vikings would clinch the North, which would eliminate them from the Scoreboard Watch. The Lions would be DOA, so they’re out as well. And Green Bay will have the advantage over Seattle and Dallas with both at 8-6. That moves them to 7th with Carolina and Atlanta still ahead of them. But the Packers would have the tiebreaker over the Panthers and the Falcons have a tough draw with both New Orleans and Carolina left. So if these predictions come true, there is a lot of optimism to be had in Lambeau.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.