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GMC Playbook: Packers Remaining Schedule Keeps Them a Solid Contender in NFC

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Are the Packers set up to be a spoiler, hunter, or contender in the NFC? Despite an ugly run defense, we firmly feel that they're the latter.

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It's Thursday, and that often means it's time for Marshall Faulk's GMC Playbook question of the week. This week, we're looking at the Packers at the halfway point of the season to project out how we expect them to be involved in the NFC playoff race over the next eight weeks.

Take it away, Marshall:

First of all, I'll start by saying that any team with Aaron Rodgers at the helm is going to be a contender for a playoff spot. Before anything else, having a former league and Super Bowl MVP at the most important position in football puts you right in the thick of things no matter what.

Still, the second half of the season sets up well for the Packers to make a run not only at a playoff spot or another NFC North title, but for a first-round bye as well.

Now, let's look at the upcoming schedule and how it breaks down on the home as opposed to road games.

Five of the Packers' eight remaining games come at home, a benefit to having a road-heavy first half. And though the Packers play three games against teams currently leading their divisions (Philadelphia, New England, and Detroit), all three of those games will be played at Lambeau Field. Furthermore, the Packers are unbeaten at home this season - in fact, the last regular season game Green Bay lost when Aaron Rodgers started and finished the game was in week one of the 2012 season, so there is plenty of reason to feel confident in those games.

Of the three road games remaining, only one is against a team currently at or above .500 (that would be the 5-3 Buffalo Bills). Those home/road splits certainly bear out positively for the Packers moving forward.

Since the run defense is the Packers' biggest issue, the thought might be to be skeptical of the defense's performance down the stretch. However, the stats show that just one of the Packers' remaining opponents is in the top-10 in rushing yards per game this season (Philadelphia), and only one other (Minnesota) is better than the league average. In fact, the last four teams on the schedule (the Bills, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Lions) all currently sit in the bottom 10 spots in the NFL - a sign that pounding running games might not be that big a concern come December anyway.

Let's finally take a quick look at the playoff odds, as reported by Football Outsiders. Despite currently sitting just outside the NFC playoffs in the 7th spot in the conference, the Packers actually have the fifth-highest playoff odds of any team in the NFC - better odds than either of the two teams currently sitting ahead of them in the two wild-card spots (Dallas and Seattle). It's basically a coin-flip between Green Bay and Detroit for the NFC North division, and the Packers are given a 30% chance of earning a bye in the NFC.

To summarize: the Packers play all of their toughest remaining games at home and that Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty darn good. Barring a serious rash of injuries, they will absolutely be in the thick of the NFC playoff race throughout the second half.

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