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Cheese Curds, 12/17: Packers-Vikings should decide who gets a first-round bye

Green Bay has never won at U.S. Bank Stadium. In order to put themselves in position for a home game and a first-round bye, the Packers must do just that on Monday night.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With the Green Bay Packers sitting in the second position in the NFC, a playoff bye is theirs for the taking. The Packers need only to win their final two games to clinch that bye, but given the opponents and their relative strengths at this point in the season, it is going to effectively come down to Monday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Because the New Orleans Saints sit tied with the Packers but behind on the tiebreaker (for now), they need the Packers to lose at least one of their final two games to get that second seed. Interestingly, however, a loss by the Packers could actually result in them falling behind the Saints on tiebreakers even if New Orleans loses a game and both teams finish 12-4.

The Packers have two remaining NFC games, and currently they hold a one-game lead on the Saints in conference record. But a loss to either the Vikings or Lions would tie up that record; therefore, if the Saints lost this coming week at Tennessee but beat the Panthers in week 17, the teams would have a tied conference record and the tiebreakers will move to strength-of-victory, which favors the Saints.

According to Fivethirtyeight’s projections, the Packers’ odds of earning a first-round bye are at 88 percent if they beat the Vikings, due largely to their massive perceived advantage over the Lions in week 17. But if they lose in Minnesota, those odds drop all the way to just 18 percent. (Odds are not considering Meanwhile, the Saints’ odds change very little based on their own game against the Titans this week, so they will be scoreboard-watching very closely on Monday night.

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A win over the Vikings on Monday night would lock up the NFC North and guarantee the Packers a home game in the postseason. That’s goal number one. But as mentioned above, it will also be the key to clinching goal number two, a bye week and the second seed.

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This comes down to the "winning ugly" identity. The Packers are 7-1 at home this season, with their only loss coming in the only game where their red zone offense really struggled. Rodgers knows that many around the NFL view the Packers as a vulnerable team, but he's confident in this squad.

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