Packers Buried Deep in NFC Playoff Race

Who knows if the Packers can turn around this season, but even if they can, the challenge that awaits is a big one. We look at the schedules of the contenders in the NFC North and the wild-card spots.

You hardly need to look at the standings to know the Green Bay Packers are in trouble.

We looked, anyway.

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Packers have gone from prime position to earn a first-round bye to on the brink of being irrelevant once the calendar turns to December. The Packers, at 5-5, are in 10th place in the NFC.

Seattle (10-1; first place, NFC West) is a game-and-a-half ahead of New Orleans (8-2; first place, NFC South) in the race for homefield advantage. The Saints play at the Seahawks next week.

Detroit (6-4; first place, NFC North) is in third place in the NFC and Philadelphia (6-5; first place, NFC East) is in fourth. Those teams play at Philadelphia on Dec. 8.

Carolina (7-3; second place, NFC South) is in control of the wild-card race after a huge victory over New England on Thursday.

The race for the sixth and final playoff spot is where it gets interesting.

For now, that spot belongs to San Francisco (6-4; second place, NFC West), with Arizona (6-4; third place, NFC West) in seventh place, Chicago (6-4; second place, NFC North) in eighth and Dallas (5-5; second place, NFC East) in ninth.

The 49ers rule the roost because of a head-to-head victory over Arizona and a better conference record than Chicago (3-3 for the 49ers; 3-4 for the Bears). Arizona is ahead of Chicago because of conference record (4-4 for the Cardinals).

Dallas is ahead of Green Bay based on conference record (5-2 for the Cowboys; 3-4 for the Packers), though the tiebreaker in this instance isn't especially relevant since the Packers and Cowboys meet in Dallas on Dec. 15.

Here's what lies ahead in the race for the NFC North title and the conference's final playoff spot:

No. 3 Detroit: vs. Tampa Bay (2-8), vs. Green Bay (5-5), at Philadelphia (6-5), vs. Baltimore (4-6), vs. N.Y. Giants (4-6), at Minnesota (2-8). Outlook: Of the four challenging games, three are at home. The Lions are going to have to screw up royally to not win the division.

No. 5 Carolina: at Miami (5-5), vs. Tampa Bay (2-8), at New Orleans (8-2), vs. N.Y. Jets (5-5), vs. New Orleans (8-2), at Atlanta (2-8). Outlook: As long as the Panthers don't have a letdown this week after beating New England, they have some margin for error with two games against the Saints in three weeks.

No. 6 San Francisco: at Washington (3-7), vs. St. Louis (4-6), vs. Seattle (10-1), at Tampa Bay (2-8), vs. Atlanta (2-8), at Arizona (6-4). Outlook: The schedule makes the 49ers the clear front-runner for the final spot. They get the Rams and Seahawks at home, and it's hard to see them losing to the Cardinals in the finale.

No. 7 Arizona: vs. Indianapolis (7-3), at Philadelphia (6-5), vs. St. Louis (4-6), at Tennessee (4-6), at Seattle (10-1), vs. San Francisco (6-4). Outlook: Of the contenders, the Cardinals have the toughest challenge with the Colts and Eagles the next two weeks and the Seahawks and 49ers to end the season.

No. 8 Chicago: at St. Louis (4-6), at Minnesota (2-8), vs. Dallas (5-5), at Cleveland (4-6), at Philadelphia (6-5), vs. Green Bay (5-5). Outlook: The Bears only have one pushover on the schedule (the Vikings) and four of the final six are on the road.

No. 9 Dallas: at N.Y. Giants (4-6), vs. Oakland (4-6), at Chicago (6-4), vs. Green Bay (5-5), at Washington (3-7), vs. Philadelphia (6-5). Outlook: The Cowboys will have a major say in the playoff race, especially the NFC North, with back-to-back games against the Bears and Packers.

No. 10 Green Bay: vs. Minnesota (2-8), at Detroit (6-4), vs. Atlanta (2-8), at Dallas (5-5), vs. Pittsburgh (4-6), at Chicago (6-4). Outlook: Assuming the Packers can turn things around — a big assumption, obviously — they're still in big trouble. Their three toughest games are on the road. And they're behind the eight-ball in the tiebreakers, with losses to fellow playoff challengers Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York.

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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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