Good Bye for Playoff Positioning for Packers

Despite a rash of injuries, the Packers control their destiny to win the NFC North and position themselves for a first-round bye. We take a look at the NFC playoff race and the challenging schedules that await the Packers and the conference's top teams.

The Green Bay Packers won big even while not playing this week.

With losses by the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and New York Giants and a tie by the San Francisco 49ers, the NFC playoff chase tightened significantly.

Not that Packers coach Mike McCarthy was stressing too much about the outcomes.

"Well, I actually don't turn it on (at home)," he said on Monday. "It's a break for me if it's on the TV at home because it's the Disney Channel or Sprout. If it's on, that means the kids have gone to bed. I don't watch a whole lot of football at home unless it's on my iPad."

The Packers are in fifth place in the NFC. If the season were to end today, they'd play at the New York Giants in the wild-card round.


1. Atlanta (NFC South lead): 8-1.

2. Chicago (NFC North lead): 7-2.

3. San Francisco (NFC West lead): 6-2-1.

4. New York (NFC East lead): 6-4.

5. Green Bay (NFC North second place): 6-3.

6. Seattle (NFC West second place): 6-4.

7. Minnesota (NFC North third place): 6-4.

8. Tampa Bay (NFC South second place): 5-4.

9. New Orleans (NFC South third place): 4-5.

10. Dallas (NFC East second place): 4-5.

11. Detroit (NFC North fourth place): 4-5.

12. Arizona (NFC West third place): 4-5.

The big outcome from Sunday was Chicago's loss to Houston at swampy Soldier Field. That cut the margin in the NFC North to one game and puts the Packers' division fate in their own hands. If it remains a one-game race headed into the teams' matchup in Chicago on Dec. 16, the Packers would pull into a tie with a victory and would own the tiebreaker with a series sweep. The division championship would mean a playoff home game, either with a first-round bye (as the No. 1 or 2 seed) or in the wild-card round (as the No. 3 or 4 seed).

The Packers' final seven games are challenging. The Lions (4-5), Giants (6-4), Vikings (6-4), Lions (4-5), Bears (7-2), Titans (4-6) and Vikings (6-4) have a combined record of 37-30. That winning percentage of .552 is the sixth-toughest in the NFL according to The New York game has the added challenge of being on the road after the Giants' bye week.

Still, that's no more challenging than most of the teams they're chasing.

Atlanta has a cushy closing stretch, thanks to the surprising weakness of the NFC South. They have the 20th-toughest remaining schedule (30-34; .469), with only the Giants (6-4) and Buccaneers (twice; 5-4) having winning records.

Chicago has the fourth-toughest closing stretch. The Bears face the 49ers (6-2-1), Vikings (6-4), Seahawks (6-4), Vikings (6-4), Packers (6-3), Cardinals (4-5) and Lions (4-5). That's a cumulative 38-27-1, for a winning percentage of .583.

San Francisco, which the Packers would have to leap-frog to move into second place in the NFC, has the seventh-toughest closing stretch. The 49ers face the Bears (7-2), Saints (4-5), Rams (3-5-1), Dolphins (4-5), Patriots (6-3), Seahawks (6-4) and Cardinals (4-5). That's a cumulative 34-29-1, for a winning percentage of .539.

New York has the fifth-toughest closing stretch. The Giants get the Packers (6-3) after their bye, followed by the Redskins (3-6), Saints (4-5), Falcons (8-1), Ravens (7-2) and Eagles (3-6).

Of the NFC North teams, Detroit has the NFL's toughest remaining schedule — amplified this week by facing Green Bay, which is coming off its bye. Minnesota has the second-toughest schedule.

The Lions play the Packers (6-3), Texans (8-1), Colts (6-3), Packers (6-3), Cardinals (4-5), Falcons (8-1) and Bears (7-2). That's a cumulative 45-18, for a winning percentage of .714.

The Vikings, who are on their bye, face the Bears (7-2), Packers (6-3), Bears (7-2), Rams (3-5-1), Texans (8-1) and Packers (6-3). That's a cumulative 37-16-1, for a winning percentage of .685.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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