Now that the Green Bay Packers have locked up a playoff spot, there are only two remaining things we’ll learn about the team before the postseason begins: whether or not they’ll win the NFC North and what seed they’ll be in the playoffs.
The former question has a simple answer, one entirely in the Packers’ control. The latter could get a little bit weird, which is where we come in. Here’s what our writers are predicting as far as where the Packers end up in the NFC playoff hierarchy.
Peter Bukowski - No. 3 seed
Think Packers-Vikings is fun? Because Part III is coming to a theater near you on Wild Card weekend. Snagging the first-round bye would require going to U.S. Bank Stadium, a glass case of emotion for Packers fans, and beating a Minnesota team that always plays them tough. I think it’s possible Mike Zimmer’s team is straight up better.
Could the Packers go get a win and finally look like a top-2 seed in the NFC? Sure, and if they do, they’ll deserve it. If they don’t, they’ll end up where they belong, as a three seed, playing host to this same Vikings team (as the six seed) at Lambeau.
Evan “Tex” Western - No. 2 seed
Can the Packers beat the Vikings on the road on Monday? Sure. If Dalvin Cook is on the field, I wouldn’t bet on it. Minnesota is the 7th-ranked team based on DVOA, while the Packers sit in 9th, a clear tier back from the top 8. Add in the Vikings’ home-field advantage and I just can’t confidently predict the Packers to win on Monday if the Vikings have their most versatile offensive weapon.
However, reports indicate that Cook is not expected to return to the field during the regular season, which changes the matchups significantly. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ backup, Alexander Mattison, is also a question mark for Monday after missing last Sunday’s game against the Chargers. Frankly, Mike Boone doesn’t move the needle for me, so I think the Packers’ defense will be able to focus on trying to keep Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs from beating them.
Thus, I think the Packers will do what they have done much of the season -- start out hot on offense and hold on for a hard-fought win to clinch the NFC North. At that point, the Packers will just need to beat a Lions team that is without Matthew Stafford, Kerryon Johnson, T.J. Hockenson, Marvin Jones, Da’Shawn Hand, Jarrad Davis...you get the picture. If the Packers lose that game they don’t deserve to host a playoff game at all, let alone get a first-round bye.
The tough part is finding a path to the #1 seed. That requires either the 49ers or Seahawks to lose this week, which I have trouble seeing happening. But the #2 seed is the Packers’ for the taking on Monday, and I like their chances with Cook seemingly out of commission.
Jon Meerdink - No. 3 seed
Maybe it’s years of conditioning going back to the Holmgren era. Maybe the Vikings are just that good. Either way, I feel predisposed to assume the Packers are going to lose when they head West.
Mike McCarthy tells me that’s a polluted mindset. He’s right. Nevertheless, that’s where I’m at. The Vikings are good, it’s hard to win in Minnesota, and the Packers have had a rough go this year with solid, consistent teams with good to very good quarterback play and solid running games. Dalvin Cook’s potential absence notwithstanding, that seems to describe the Vikings quite well, and I anticipate they’ll play the Packers very tough, sending them to their fourth loss of the season.
I do expect the Packers to win against the Lions, which will lock up an NFC North title and the three seed. But that’s all the higher I see the Packers climbing this year.
Kris Burke - No. 3 seed
Until proven otherwise, U.S. Bank Stadium is and will continue to be a house of horrors for the Green Bay Packers. That means I don’t have much faith in the Packers’ chances on Sunday but I’d of course be more than thrilled if they can win out and secure a first round bye.
I get home field advantage is still on the table but it would be stunning to see Arizona beat Seattle on the road.
The smart money is Green Bay splits the final two games of the season, wins the NFC North and gets the number three seed and a third date with the Minnesota Vikings. If Dalvin Cook is out Monday as it currently appears he will be, the field tilts more in Green Bay’s favor but Mike Zimmer has given Aaron Rodgers fits over the years and the Packers have struggled with the noise in that stadium since it opened.
The Packers likely will still win the NFC North thanks to playing a severely depleted Lions team in the regular season finale and like Tex said, they lose that game they don’t deserve to even host a playoff game.
That said at least Green Bay is in the playoffs. How far they go is for another walkthrough topic but even the most pessimistic Packers fan admits even one game of playoff football is better than no playoff football.
Paul Noonan - No. 3 seed
Given how the 49ers have been flagging lately, there’s a good argument to be made that the Vikings, who are second in the NFC with a +119 point differential, are currently the conference’s best team. They’ve outscored the Packers by 48 and they’ve allowed 24 fewer points. They’re better. Yes, they’re banged up at running back, but I’m more worried about Green Bay scoring, and don’t like the “purely average Aaron v. Zimmer” matchup.
Maybe they force another bad game from Cousins, and maybe they’re able to exploit the Vikings’ weaknesses against #1 receivers with Davante. Those are pretty big positives and I don’t think Minnesota are overwhelming favorites, but it’s been too easy to stop Green Bay’s offense. If the Vikings don’t beat themselves they probably would have won the last game, and they’ll win this one too. That means a likely rematch in a few weeks.