Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY

Plot Thickens in NFC Playoff Chase

In two weeks, the Packers have combined from No. 14 to No. 9 in the NFC. Here's a look at what's ahead entering the final quarter of the season.

The Green Bay Packers have used back-to-back wins to get a better footing in the NFC playoff race.

Heading into the final four games, Green Bay (6-6) still trails Detroit (8-4) by two games in the NFC North. Two weeks ago, when Green Bay was 4-6 and in 14th place in the NFC, its best path to the playoffs seemed to be through the North. However, the Wild Card race has tightened.

Here are the standings:

1. Dallas (11-1; first place, NFC East).
2. Seattle (8-3-1; first place, NFC West).
3. Detroit (8-4, first place, NFC North).
4. Atlanta (7-5, first place, NFC South).
5. N.Y. Giants (8-4, first place, NFC East).
6. Tampa Bay (7-5; second place, NFC South).
7. Washington (6-5-1; third place, NFC East).
8. Minnesota (6-6; second place, NFC North).
9. Green Bay (6-6; third place, NFC North).

“A lot can obviously change in two weeks,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game. “We’re backs against the wall, 4-6, obviously struggling (before last week’s game at Philadelphia). But there was something in the locker that I felt and I saw that made me feel like saying I think we could run the table. You can’t run the table if you don’t win today, so we were fortunate to get this one today. We’re back to .500. Obviously would have appreciated a little help from the Saints (against Detroit) but we still have a lot of things in front of us.”

For the division, Green Bay visits Detroit in Week 17 so needs to make up one game in the standings in the next three weeks. That’s possible. The Packers host Seattle (8-3-1), visit Chicago (3-9) and host Minnesota (6-6). Detroit, which has won four in a row, hosts Chicago (3-9) and visits the Giants (8-4) and Cowboys (11-1). Don’t count out Minnesota, though. While the Vikings have lost six of their last seven, they have an easy finishing stretch of at Jacksonville (2-10), home to Indianapolis (6-6), at Green Bay (6-6) and home to Chicago (3-9).

The record of the three NFC North challengers’ remaining opponents: Green Bay, 25-22-1; Detroit, 28-20; Minnesota, 17-31.

For the wild card, here are the challengers’ remaining schedules:

Tampa Bay: vs. New Orleans (5-7), at Dallas (11-1), at New Orleans (5-7), vs. Carolina (4-8). Combined record of 25-23.

Washington: at Philadelphia (5-7), vs. Carolina (4-8), at Chicago (3-9), vs. N.Y. Giants (8-4). Combined record of 20-28.

Minnesota: See above. Combined record of 17-31.

Should Atlanta fall behind Tampa Bay, here’s the Falcons’ schedule: at L.A. Rams (4-8), vs. San Francisco (1-11), at Carolina (4-8), vs. New Orleans (5-7). Combined record of 14-34.

“I feel good about where we are today,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “Just really my focus is getting healthy. If we can get a couple guys, maybe another guy back this week, that would be nice. But just get a little healthier and get ready to beat these Seahawks. That’s all I’m worried about. I told the team this the other day, until you win 10 games in this league, it’s nonsense to talk about anything else. So we’re not worried about Detroit or any other team out there or what anybody’s record is. We have six wins, and we know we’ve got to get to seven fast.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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