After four consecutive losses, the Green Bay Packers were in 14th place in the NFC.
After four consecutive wins, the Packers have moved up to sixth place. And that means, if the season were to end today, the Packers would be in the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year.
Thanks to losses by Washington (on Monday against Carolina), Tampa Bay (on Thursday against Dallas) and Minnesota (on Sunday against Indianapolis), the Packers vaulted over all three teams this week.
Of course, the season doesn’t end today, but the Packers are in control of their destiny entering the final two weeks of the season.
“Control your own destiny is what you want,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, a day after a 30-27 victory at Chicago. “Really, the only time I’ve talked about the playoffs is — I hit them again last week or two weeks ago — 10 wins. That’s really all we’ve focused on. We know we’re at eight. We have to get to nine. Then, obviously, next week we’ll probably be answering that question the same way. ”
The Packers (8-6) host the Vikings (7-7) on Saturday. If the Packers win, they’ll head to Detroit to face the Lions (9-5; at Dallas on Monday night) for the NFC North title.
The Giants (10-4) are in control of the No. 5 seed. For No. 6, Green Bay and Tampa Bay are 8-6 but the Packers own a way down-the-line tiebreaker. Head-to-head is void because they didn't play. The next tiebreaker is common games, where they're tied 3-2. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, and they're tied there with their eight wins coming against teams with a total of 49 victories. The next is strength of schedule, with Green Bay's 14 opponents having 99 wins and Tampa Bay's having 98 wins. The Packers face a tougher schedule the rest of the way, so they figure to build on that advantage.
The Packers could clinch a playoff berth this week, though that seems unlikely based on the matchups. Green Bay would have to beat the Vikings, and the Buccaneers would have to lose at New Orleans (6-8) and the Redskins (7-6-1) would have to lose at Chicago (3-11).
But the Wild Card talk is silly. Skipping the what-if playoff conjecture, the Packers have to win. And if they win, they’ll win the division.
McCarthy is focused on other issues, starting with finding enough healthy bodies to face the Vikings on a short week.
“It’s not to be cliché, but just staying true to what’s right in front of us,” he said. “The challenges in itself with the scheduling have been plenty to focus on, just trying to find out who’s healthy and who’s not. That’s been a challenge each week. Being on a six-day schedule is a challenge. So, we don’t really need to waste any time thinking about the other stuff. I think it’s good for us. It keeps us focused on beating the Vikings Saturday, and that’s all that matters.”
Speaking of scheduling, file this away: The Packers play Minnesota on Saturday. Detroit plays Dallas on Monday night. That means the Packers will have an additional two-plus days of rest for that Week 17 showdown.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.