The Green Bay Packers are in the midst of their bye week, enjoying the fruits of their labors after an 8-2 start. Currently the Packers lead the NFC North and could wind up as the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs if they manage to win out.
The road ahead, though, is filled with danger, from difficult opponents to potential trap games. That’s why we’re putting on our officially licensed prognostication helmets and predicting what we think the Packers’ final record will be this year. What do you think?
Jon Meerdink — 13-3
With Detroit in something between a free fall and a slow slide into oblivion, it looks like there are only two serious road bumps for the Packers over the remainder of their schedule: the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams present unique challenges to the Packers, and both games will take place on the road.
Though the Bears aren’t of the same caliber as these teams, the Packers’ showed with their win in Chicago that they can handle a challenging opponent on the road. I think they beat at least one of these two teams and handle the rest of their schedule with relative ease, thanks to a forgiving slate of opposing quarterbacks.
Of course, the Packers have also shown they can drop winnable games on the road, but given how Matt LaFleur and the rest of the coaching staff seem to have learned from mistakes that have periodically cropped up this season and avoided them in the future, I am relatively confident they’ll come ready to play in any future road games.
Paul Noonan — 12-4
The weird thing is 12-4 doesn’t even seem that optimistic. If they can steal a game from San Fran or Minnesota (both on the road) they might be even better, but that’s asking a lot of a team that still has trouble blowing out the also-rans. I’m expecting a bit of a second-half defensive surge as the team faces several questionable quarterbacks, especially if Matthew Stafford’s back injury lingers. If they dropped a game to the Bears or Giants I suppose it wouldn’t be that surprising, but I think they’re smart enough to avoid a bad loss, and they should end up with a first-round bye, if not the top overall seed.
Evan “Tex” Western — 13-3
The two remaining games on the Packers’ schedule that I find concerning are the games at San Francisco after the bye and at Minnesota. The thing is, I can find plenty of reasons to feel good about Green Bay winning both of those games. If the Packers can start hot and make Jimmy Garoppolo have to play quarterback, they can get him out of rhythm and he’ll throw them some turnover-worthy passes. And we’ve already seen the Packers beat the Vikings once, so that game feels like a 50/50 shot.
I think the Packers split those two games, then beat the four bad teams remaining on their schedules, all of whom do or could (pending Matthew Stafford’s situation) have bad quarterbacks. That should be enough to give the Packers at least a bye in the NFC, given that the 49ers and Saints face one another and the Vikings already have two divisional losses; and depending on which of those two coin flips is a win, that could even get them home-field advantage.