The simplest way for the Green Bay Packers to make the playoffs is to keep winning, but things are looking pretty clear after this past weekend’s slate of games.
The Packers, at 8-4, currently hold the No. 6 seed in the NFC. The Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) hold the other wild card slot and the New York Giants (7-5) are still very much in the race. After losing to the Eagles on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons (6-6) are on the outside looking in.
The San Francisco 49ers (5-7) are out of the picture for all intents and purposes, after losing to the Seattle Seahawks.
So, let’s take a look at the Packers’ competitors.
Philadelphia is playing well right now. The Eagles pasted Atlanta 34-7 on Sunday and have won three straight. Philadelphia travels to face the New York Giants (8-4) this week, in a game that will have major playoff implications. If the Eagles win, they have likely locked up the wild card spot before facing San Francisco (5-7), Denver (8-4) and traveling to Dallas (8-4) to end the season.
If everything holds to current form, the Eagles will be playing Dallas for the division title in their final game of the season. However, if the Eagles slip up, and they could do so against both New York and Denver, they could end up out of the picture completely.
As steady as Philadelphia has been the last three weeks, the Giants have been an enigma. The team tallied victories over Atlanta and Dallas, but got killed by Denver 26-6 on Thanksgiving. After taking it to division-leading Dallas this past weekend, it’s hard to think the Giants aren’t legit.
On paper, the Giants have what looks like a favorable schedule. After division rival Philadelphia visits, New York goes to Washington (3-9), plays Carolina (5-7) at home and travels to Minnesota (10-2). At first glance that schedule doesn’t look all that great, but New York gets both Philadelphia and Carolina at home, where they are 4-2 this season. The team’s final game against Minnesota could be meaningless for the Vikings, meaning the Giants are likely to see a lot of Tarvaris Jackson and Chester Taylor instead of Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson.
Although Atlanta is technically still in the playoff race, we’re not giving them much of a chance. They’re two games behind the current wild card leaders and will face the New Orleans Saints (12-0) this week. Quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner both sat out the Saints loss to the Eagles, and at least Ryan is expected to be out against New Orleans.
A loss on Sunday, which looks probable, will make it awfully hard for Atlanta to stay in the conversation. The Falcons finish at the New York Jets (6-6), home versus Buffalo (4-8) and at Tampa Bay (1-11).
Back at home, the Packers finish like this: at Chicago (5-7), at Pittsburgh (6-6), Seattle (5-7), and at Arizona (8-4). Winning all four games will be a tough task, considering three of the contests are on the road, but it isn’t improbable.
Chicago, as we know, isn’t real good and after losing at home to the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers don’t appear to be very good either. Pittsburgh has dropped four straight, including embarrassing losses to Kansas City and the aforementioned Raiders. Going into the Steel City is no gimme, but the Packers are catching Pittsburgh at the right time.
The finale in Arizona is shaping up to be the toughest test for Green Bay, but with a three-game lead in the NFC West, Arizona may shut it down by the time the Packers come to town.
However you slice it, the next few weeks will be interesting, but the Packers are in great shape.