The (10-3) Packers won the NFC North — clinching a playoff spot — after hanging on to beat the Lions last Sunday. They currently own the tie-breaker over the (10-3) New Orleans Saints for the #1 seed — and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Without getting to far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at how the games that will have NFC playoff implications this weekend.
First, the Packers control their own destiny in a matchup against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night. Christian McCaffrey is unlikely to play, but Mike Davis has kept the Panthers ground game respectable in McCaffrey’s absence. The Packers will need to put up points early and in bunches so the Panthers abandon the run game. With a win, the Packers strengthen their hold on the #1 seed.
Next, the Saint take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Drew Brees has been designated to return to practice and seems confident he will be ready to play soon.
After missing four games with a rib injury, Brees seems to be emerging from the telephone booth at the perfect moment. However, Brees will really have to be Superman on Sunday if Saints have any chance at taking down the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Mahomes is coming off one of his worst games of the season where he threw three interceptions and took one of the worst sacks in league history. The Chiefs can give the Packers a one-game cushion with a convincing win over a battered Saints team.
Next, the (9-4) Rams and Seahawks (9-4) are both a game back of the #1 seed and tied for the NFC West division lead. The Rams play the winless Jets on Sunday afternoon and clinch a playoff berth with a win. The Seahawks play the NFC East division leader Washington Football Team and can clinch a playoff berth with a win as well. Rams — and their new dominant running game — should be able to make quick work of the defeated Jets. So, the Seahawks will have to match with a win against the young, surging Football Team. With a win, The Football Team could all but seal up the East title, but a loss would give Jalen Hurts and the Eagles a fighting chance.
The reeling (7-6) Arizona Cardinals are hanging on by a thread and have to beat the Eagles on Sunday to avoid being momentarily booted from the playoff picture. Unless the (6-7) Bears and (6-7) Vikings tie this weekend, a loss would send the Cardinals to the outside looking in. Hurts and the Eagles notched their biggest win of the season against the Saints last week and need to win out to stay alive in the NFC East race.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the few teams who won’t move up or down this weekend. Stuck in limbo, the Buccaneers seem cemented in the 6th seed for week 15.
Whoever claims to have a grasp on the playoff picture is a liar. The best you can do is let it all play out and analyze afterwards, but that is no fun. The Packers control their own destiny, and there isn’t anything better than that.