The Packers’ playoff hopes are alive post-Thanksgiving – in October, I never would’ve guessed this could be reality.
Green Bay played their most complete game of the season Thursday at Detroit. Jordan Love enjoyed arguably the best game of his career (22/32, 268 yards, 3 TDs) while the Packers defeated one of the top teams in the NFC in a game that wasn’t as close as the 29-22 might indicate.
The Packers did this while having 17 players on their injury report before Thursday’s game, which included several starters. Considering all circumstances, it was one of the most impressive wins of the Matt LaFleur era.
And now, it’s time to talk playoffs. Not even as a biased, hopeful fan – but as an absolute real possibility.
The Packers currently sit as the NFC’s 8th seed at 5-6, just one spot outside of the 7th seed wildcard spot. The teams ahead of them in the wildcard 6th and 7th seeds? The Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. So, how real are the Packers’ playoff odds?
Seattle is reeling. After a 31-13 mauling by the 49ers Thanksgiving day, the Seahawks sit at 6-5 with a brutal upcoming schedule. The Cowboys, 49ers, and Eagles consecutively await the Seahawks the next three weeks, all of which Seattle will likely be 7-point or more underdogs. They literally face the best three teams in the NFC back-to-back-to-back.
The Vikings just suffered a terrible 12-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. The loss sets Minnesota back to 6-6, just a game and a half ahead of Green Bay. The Packers and Vikings play again in Week 17, a game that could prove to have major implications for the NFC playoff picture.
The NFC playoff picture will likely come down to the Vikings, Seahawks and Packers vying for the 6th and 7th playoff seeds. Luckily for the Packers, they have by far the easiest remaining schedule of the bunch.
Green Bay faces the Chiefs next Sunday night at Lambeau, which could very well be a loss to one of the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders. After that, they play the Giants, Buccaneers, Panthers, Vikings and Bears, which could reasonably be a five-game winning streak to end the season. This would put Green Bay at 10-7, and even dropping one of those last five games would put them at 9-8. The way the Packers are playing right now, their only real threat is at Minnesota in Week 17.
I see the Seahawks losing their next three to the NFC’s top teams, and finishing out on a three-game winning streak against the Titans, Steelers and Cardinals. However, Seattle dropping one of those last three games is absolutely not out of the question. At best, I think they’ll finish 9-8.
Minnesota plays the Raiders, Bengals, Lions, Packers, and Lions again in their final stretch. Even with giving them a win against the Packers in Week 17, they’d finish 9-8. Assuming the Seahawks schedule goes as expected and giving the Vikings that win in Week 17, the Packers’ playoff chances would remain very high.
Essentially, the Packers seem to be able to theoretically lose two more games and still have a chance at making the playoffs. Given that the Chiefs and the downward-trending Vikings are easily their best remaining opponents, 9-8 seems more realistic than ever for this Packers team that appeared dead in the water a month ago.
Thanksgiving’s win against Detroit, and the way the Packers have steadily improved over the last three weeks, is not only a testament to LaFleur’s coaching ability but to the true development of Green Bay’s young quarterback and playmakers. If they continue on this trend, the Packers’ playoff chances are better than anyone would’ve though just a month ago.——————