May 29, 2024

The bad news is … well, everything that happened in the 24-22 Green Bay Packers’ loss to the New York Giants on Monday night. The good news is that Green Bay remains in a playoff spot, but has a much tougher road to win the NFC North and need more help to reach the No. 6 seed.

If the season ended today, the Packers would still have the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoff chase. And, yes, if they win the rest of their games, the Packers would still be heading to the postseason.

Here’s what to know about where things stand:

Who do the Packers play in their last four games of the 2023 schedule?
Dec. 17: vs. Tampa Bay (6-7), noon
Dec. 24: at Carolina (1-12), noon
Dec. 31: at Minnesota (7-6), 7:20 p.m.
Jan. 7: vs. Chicago (5-8), time TBD

The Packers are tied with a bunch of teams at 6-7, so why does Green Bay have the No. 7 spot?
Right now, the Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons are all at 6-7, so what gives the Packers priority?

The Buccaneers own the tiebreaker in the NFC South, so they’d get the No. 4 seed and leave the rest of the teams duking it out for that No. 7 spot. In the NFL tiebreaking process, one representative from each division is elevated into this comparison, so the Rams (who have the edge over the Seahawks on tiebreaker at the moment) and Falcons (who have the edge over the Saints on tiebreaker at the moment) would be in the same mix with the Packers.

The Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Rams but not the Falcons, yet since the Falcons haven’t played the Rams, the three-way tiebreaker is settled by record in conference games. Right now, the Packers and Rams (both 4-4) have a better record, technically, than Atlanta (4-5). That removes Atlanta from the equation, and now we’re back to head-to-head between the Rams and Packers. Green Bay gets the edge.

Could the Packers fall out of that No. 7 spot next week, even with a win?
You’re worried about a scenario where the Packers win but so does Atlanta and, because other teams lost, it becomes a two-team tiebreaker that Atlanta would win head-to-head? Don’t worry, Green Bay would still be in the No. 7 spot with a victory.

A win next week for the Packers would come against Tampa Bay, so if Atlanta also won next week against Carolina, the Falcons would ascend to the NFC South perch. Now, it’s Green Bay at 7-7 in a tiebreaker with potentially New Orleans or Seattle, and the Packers would still possess all the tiebreakers there, thanks to either head-to-head (vs. Saints) or because of a better NFC record (vs. Seahawks or in a three-way situation).

What are the odds the Packers make the playoffs?
The New York Times playoff simulator believes the odds are squarely at 50%.

If the Packers win out (4-0), would they still be going to the playoffs?
Yes, the Packers would clinch a playoff spot by finishing the season 4-0.

What are the Packers’ playoff odds if they finish 3-1?
The New York Times simulator gives Green Bay a percentage chance of making the playoffs in the upper 90s if the one loss is against any team but the Vikings. If the one loss came against Minnesota, the chance would still be around 90%.

What are the Packers’ playoff odds if they finish 2-2?
Depending on the combination, it’s anywhere between 10% and 40% odds that they still make it. Generally speaking, if there’s a loss that the Packers can afford, it would be to the lowly Carolina Panthers, but the other three carry more significant weight.

Using the simulator, here are the odds if the Packers go 2-2, based on which teams the Packers defeat.

Wins vs. Bucs and Panthers: Around 10%
Wins vs. Panthers and Bears: Around 15%
Wins vs. Bucs and Bears: Just below 30%
Wins vs. Panthers and Vikings: Around 30%
Wins vs. Bucs and Vikings: Around 40%
Wins vs. Vikings and Bears: Around 40%
What if the Packers tie a game?
We do not recommend it. It would essentially count as a loss with so many teams bunched up battling for one playoff spot. It would make things a little easier to digest, at least, since the Packers wouldn’t be as likely to need a tiebreaker in a comparison with another team’s record.

Can the Packers still make the playoffs with just one more win?
Speaking of ties and such, the simulator still believes there’s a scenario out there, but the chances are less than 1%.

Can the Packers still win the NFC North?
The simulator puts the odds at 2%, so that’s the thing that really took a hit with the Giants loss. Monday at this time, the odds were at roughly 45% (the simulator naturally expected the Packers to beat the Giants). Even if you knew the Packers were going to finish 4-0, it would only put the likelihood at roughly 15%.

The Packers would need to win out, the Lions would need to lose three of four, and Minnesota would also need to lose to Cincinnati this week. Or, if the Lions go 0-4, the Packers might not need Minnesota to lose to the Bengals — it would come down to a “strength of victory” tiebreaker.

If the season ended today, who would the Packers face in the playoffs?
The Packers currently have the No. 7 seed in the NFC and would face the No. 2 seed in the wild-card round of the playoffs, which would be Dallas. The Cowboys seized control of the NFC East from Philadelphia on tiebreaker after a win Sunday.

Don’t tell me that you’re not intrigued by the prospect of the Packers heading to Dallas to face former coach Mike McCarthy in the playoffs.

The tiebreaker in the East, we should note, is tenuous. Right now, the Cowboys are 4-1 in division play with Philly at 3-1, and Philly’s last two division games are against the Giants. Even if Dallas keeps winning, Philly landing a win over the Giants would return the tiebreaking edge to the Eagles.

Will the Packers get a tiebreaker over Minnesota with a win on New Year’s Eve?
We don’t know yet.

If Green Bay wins at Minnesota, that would split the season series at 1-1. That would mean two division losses for the Vikings and four conference losses, which matches Green Bay. If Green Bay goes 4-0 and the Vikings win their other three games (triggering the tiebreaker), the teams would then be judged on record vs. common opponents, which would also be identical in that scenario.

Next up is strength of victory, and that’s not something we can determine until we know everyone’s final records.

The NFC North could also be in play there; Detroit would take two losses to Minnesota in this scenario and would need to win its other two games to have 11 wins and win the North outright. If Detroit were also stuck on 10 wins, Minnesota would win the North based on the best overall record (3-1) against the other two teams, and Green Bay would claim the wild-card nod over Detroit thanks to a better divisional record.

A look at remaining schedules of teams contending with Green Bay
Of the teams jockeying with Green Bay for a playoff spot, the Packers are tied for the “easiest” remaining schedule with an opponent winning percentage of 37%.

Green Bay: vs. Tampa Bay (6-7), at Carolina (1-12), at Minnesota (7-6), vs. Chicago (5-8), 37% opponents’ winning percentage.
Detroit: vs. Denver (7-6), at Minnesota (7-6), at Dallas (10-3), vs. Minnesota (7-6), 60%
Minnesota: at Cincinnati (7-6), vs. Detroit (9-4), vs. Green Bay (6-7), at Detroit (9-4), 60%
Seattle: vs. Philadelphia (10-3), at Tennessee (5-8), vs. Pittsburgh (7-6), at Arizona (3-10), 48%
Los Angeles Rams: vs. Commanders (4-9), vs. Saints (6-7), at New York Giants (5-8), at San Francisco (10-3), 48%
Atlanta: at Carolina (1-12), vs. Indianapolis (7-6), at Chicago (5-8), at New Orleans (6-7), 37%
Tampa Bay: vs. Green Bay (6-7), vs. Jacksonville (8-5), vs. New Orleans (6-7), at Carolina (1-12), 40%
New Orleans: vs. New York Giants (5-8), at Los Angeles Rams (6-7), at Tampa Bay (6-7), vs. Atlanta (6-7), 44%

 

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