Green Bay worked hard to win that top playoff seed. While most fans and pundits sense the importance of that achievement, there are many who only appreciate that it bestows home advantage on the Pack and gives the players an extra week of rest. But there’s a bunch of additional reasons that obtaining top seeding is so valuable.
1. The top seed in the NFC and AFC only has to win two games to go on to the Super Bowl. No matter who the opponent is, misfortune can befall the higher-ranked team in any game. A fumble here, a pick-6 there, a critical dropped pass, or a bad call by the referees can send the stronger team packing. With the closeness of most games lately, not having to win an extra game is a huge help.
2. Because they are the top seed, Green Bay will get to play the remaining worst seed in both their first and second games. The lower seeded teams (Bucs, Cowboys, etc.) will face teams that are arguably better than the one the Pack will play. That’s a big bonus.
3. Top seeds not only get an extra week of rest, they get an additional week of injury recovery time. This is a windfall for the Packers, as it affects so many key players: David Bakhtiari, Josh Myers, Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling – and even Aaron Rodgers. This factor alone justifies how resolutely the Packers fought to reel off consecutive wins from Week 12 through 17. Along the way they passed by Tampa Bay and Dallas.
4. Then there’s the matter of new injuries. In any given game, but especially so in all-out, win-or-go-home playoff scenarios, you should anticipate two or three players will have to leave that extra game due to injuries. You can also expect that one or more of those players will either miss the remainder of their playoff games, or be at less than full capacity for them. I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance that the Packers won’t be facing one of its playoff opponents’ top five players due to an injury that took place during wild card weekend.
5. By not having to play in the wild card round, the coaching staffs of the #1 seeds are afforded lots of time to deeply analyze and scout its most likely opponents, and have the team get lots of practice at plays and formations they’ll want to use against particular opponents. Green Bay will also have ample time to rehearse a trick play or two.
If our beloved Packers make it to the Super Bowl this time, fans should look back to that late-season running of the table against LAR, CHI, BAL CLE, and MIN. It was something the Cards couldn’t accomplish (6 losses in a row to end the season). Tampa Bay couldn’t get it done (shut out by the Saints in Week 15). The Rams couldn’t do it (Week 12 loss to GB, Week 18 loss to 49ers). The Niners couldn’t do it (Week 13 loss to Seahawks, Week 16 loss to Titans). The Titans couldn’t do it (3 losses in their final seven games). Nor could the Cowboys (Week 17 loss to the Cardinals).
Packer fans should be eager and confident as the playoffs near. No team is more primed and ready to win it all this time around.