GREEN BAY – The NFC’s No. 1 seed is even closer to being within the Packers’ grasp.
So much so, that Green Bay actually has two ways it could clinch the top spot with just one additional victory to earn the conference’s only first-round playoff bye, plus the home-field advantage that goes with it.
At 11-3 with two games left, here are the ways the Packers can secure the No. 1 seed with one more win:
- Beat the Tennessee Titans this week, and have the Seahawks lose one of their last two games OR
- Beat the Chicago Bears next week
That’s it. That’s all it comes down to.
With that in mind, the most important game elsewhere in Week 16 then is obviously the L.A. Rams (9-5) at Seattle (10-4). It’s in the late-afternoon time slot on Sunday, so the Packers will know the result before their game with the Titans kicks off in prime time.
Clearly, rooting for the Rams to beat the Seahawks is in Green Bay’s best interest, and if that happens, the Packers would take the field Sunday night with a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed.
If that doesn’t happen, the Packers’ control of the top spot will come down to beating the Bears next week.
There are a handful of other games worth paying attention to as well.
First, on Christmas Day, Minnesota (6-8) is at New Orleans (10-4). If things fall right for the Saints, they could still steal the No. 1 seed from the Packers, and fans or no fans, no one wants to visit the Superdome in the postseason.
Minnesota’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, but in playing the first game of the week, the Vikings are still alive. In any event, pull for the Vikings to knock off the Saints, which would be a repeat of their playoff upset from last January.
Then, on Saturday, Tampa Bay (9-5) travels to Detroit (5-9) while San Francisco (5-9) visits Arizona (8-6).
There is a scenario whereby the Buccaneers and Packers could finish tied for the top spot with 11-5 records, in which case Tampa Bay’s head-to-head victory over Green Bay would decide the No. 1 seed. So just to be safe, cheer for the Lions to upset the Bucs.
Regarding the Cardinals, they currently sit in the NFC’s No. 7 spot with the final wild-card berth, one game ahead of the Bears, with Chicago (7-7) at Jacksonville (1-13) on Sunday.
Presumably it would help the Packers in Week 17, should they need to win, if the Bears are eliminated and not playing for anything. So in that case, root for the Cardinals to down the 49ers and for the Jaguars to surprise the Bears. If all that occurs, Chicago’s playoff hopes are dashed.