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2018 NFC Playoff Picture: Packers’ needs are clear after week 14

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We’ve called Green Bay’s postseason dreams dead for a few weeks now, but there remains a possibility for them to sneak into the playoffs.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers are still alive. They’re on life support, to be sure, but there is still a feasible path for them to make a run at the postseason. However, much of the help that the team needs to pull for down the stretch will depend on the result of tonight’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.

Teams around the NFC will be watching that contest closely. Those two squads sit in the Wild Card spots right now and will stay there regardless of the result of tonight’s game, but the winner will get a massive leg up on a postseason berth. The loser? They’ll have Packers fans and supporters of several other teams around the NFC pulling for them to lose a few more games down the stretch.

The Packers’ biggest ask now is to beat the Chicago Bears next week. Control what you can control, and let the chips fall how they may. It has worked for the Green and Gold in the past, so why not again in 2018?

Here is where the situation lies in the NFC after 14 weeks (minus one game).

Current Playoff Spots

1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
5. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1)

The Bears’ win over the Rams dropped Los Angeles back into a tie with the Saints for the best record in the NFC, and New Orleans gets the top spot thanks to their head-to-head victory. The rest of these six spots shakes out in a very straightforward manner.

There is one interesting note, however. The Seahawks host the Vikings on Monday Night Football this evening, but regardless of which team wins, those two will remain in the two Wild-Card spots. The winner will hold the 5th seed while the loser will sit in 6th place.

In the hunt

7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
9. Washington (6-7)
10. Green Bay Packers (5-7-1)
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8)
12. New York Giants (5-8)
13. Detroit Lions (5-8)

For the Packers, it’s pretty clear what they have to do to make the postseason. The Bears’ victory put the division out of reach, but winning out would put Green Bay at 8-7-1 and still with a chance to make it in as a Wild Card team.

On Sunday, Carolina, Philadelphia, Washington, and Tampa Bay all lost, which gives the Packers a bunch of needed help. Now they need the following to find a way to get in:

A: Packers must win out
B: Panthers, Eagles, and Washington each lose at least one game
C: Either Seahawks or Vikings lose three more games

The three 6-7 teams listed in B all have plenty of tough contests remaining. Washington and Philly will play in week 17, effectively delivering one-third of the necessary losses before the game is even played. The Eagles also have tough games against the Rams and Texans in the next two weeks, while Washington plays at the Jaguars and Titans with a third or fourth-string quarterback. Finally, Carolina faces the Saints twice in 14 days. Don’t worry about B — that part will almost certainly work out.

With Seattle and Minnesota playing tonight, one of them will lose one of the necessary three games in C. Therefore, the Packers must cheer for whichever team loses that game to lose two of their final three contests as well. The schedules are favorable for both of those teams, however, as they have the following opponents remaining after tonight’s game:

Seattle: at 49ers, vs. Chiefs, vs. Cardinals
Minnesota: vs. Dolphins, at Lions, vs. Bears

Divisional games can get crazy, so you never know, but each team should be favored in two of their final three, making that — and the Packers’ game in Chicago next week — the biggest barriers to Green Bay making a surprise playoff appearance.

As for the 5-8 teams, there are still ways that each of those three could make it in as a Wild Card at 8-8. That would just involve the loser of Seattle-Minnesota losing out over their final three and getting help from all of the teams in between. However, it’s still mathematically possible for all three of those teams.

Out of the chase

14. Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
15. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)
16. San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

The Packers did not officially end the Falcons’ playoff hopes on Sunday, but we’re including them here anyway. Mathematically there’s a possibility they could get to 7-9 and sneak ahead of the loser of SEA-MIN, but it’s the slimmest glimmer of hope for that to happen and all of the teams above to fall below or even with Atlanta. One wrong game the rest of the way and it’s toast. Meanwhile, Arizona and San Francisco are still even for the #1 pick with Oakland, thanks to wins by the two Bay Area teams on Sunday.