Will a Christmas Miracle Keep Playoff Hopes Alive?

Was anyone else mad back in April when the schedule makers decided that the Green Bay Packers should play an away game in one of the hottest states in the country… on Christmas Day? Well it’s time to loathe that decision even more because the Packers have a win or go home matchup vs the Miami Dolphins.

The Packers will take on the Dolphins this Sunday and the only way they stay realistically alive is if they win the game. Of course, as we all know, Seattle would still have to lose one out of their remaining three games, and the Commanders will have to lose 2 of theirs.

I’ll be the first to say I was amongst the fans back after the loss in Detroit that felt like it was time to start thinking about draft picks rather than playoff hopes. However, where there’s a chance I, like any Packers fan should, will of course root for the team to make it into the playoffs. The question is, how realistic are their chances?

Obviously Seattle losing to Kansas City and Washington winning one or fewer games against the 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys seems reasonable. That’s when the real factor comes into play. The Packers have two teams on the schedule that have already beaten them, and one team coming up that looks to be a really talented playoff contender. To me, this Christmas Day game in Miami is the litmus test. If the Packers can go in and beat the Dolphins then they can presumably beat almost anybody, but how big of an “if” is that?

The Miami Dolphins have an absolutely loaded offense. With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle leading the receiving corps there is enough explosiveness for Tua Tagovailoa to do almost anything he wants if he can get a few seconds in the pocket on each play. RB Raheem Mostert has been electric for the Dolphins this season, and we all know the Packers have never had a problem with that guy before.

So an inconsistent pass rush unit without its star player will have to create consistent pressure and set the edge in the run game in order for the Packers to have a chance against this potent offense. What about the other side of the ball though? The Packers’ offense is where things can even out a little bit. The Dolphins have been fairly middle of the league in most defensive metrics, they’re susceptible to the run, slightly less so to the pass, but Aaron Jones and Green Bay’s passing game stands to make things at least somewhat interesting against a talented, if not slightly underachieving, Miami defense.

It seems like this game will come down to two major factors. The Packers defense will need to capitalize on a few of the opposing QB’s mistakes during the game, and maybe come away with a turnover or two. The other factor will be the starting field position outside of any turnovers, which will come down to the Packers standout returner Keisean Nixon. If Nixon returns punts and kickoffs like he did on Monday night vs. the Rams, the Green Bay Packers will probably still be fighting for a playoff chance when they face Minnesota the following week.

Everything comes down to this game against Miami. If the Packers win, they’ll look legitimate enough to be deserving of that potential playoff spot. If the Packers lose, though not yet mathematically eliminated, they’ll be in draft pick mode for their final two games.

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Zack is a college student and cheesehead from California. When he’s not in class or writing, you can find him talking about the Packers on Twitter at @Zack_Upchurch.

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