A brutal loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is enough to put a damper on anybody’s week, but there are better times ahead — and there is a very good chance those times include a trip to the playoffs.
But where will the Green Bay Packers end up? Seeding is a byzantine process in the best of circumstances, and new rules about byes make your playoff seed all the more important this year. So what seed will the Packers get if (and when) they make the playoffs? Here’s what our writers had to say.
Tex Western: 2
First of all, the Packers are winning the NFC North. That’s something that I’m confident in, even despite the team’s loss to a Buccaneers team which in turn lost to the Chicago Bears. Chicago doesn’t have the linebacker group that Tampa Bay does, a group that gave the Packers fits on Sunday, nor do I think that they have a good enough defensive coordinator to replicate Todd Bowles’ game plan.
With that out of the way, we are into the top four. There’s no chance — none — that the NFC North winner will have a worse record than the team that wins the NFC East. (If I’m wrong, I will print this article out on paper and eat it.) I do think that the Packers end up finishing behind the NFC West winner, which looks like either the Seahawks or Rams. The question then becomes whether Green Bay can edge out the NFC South champs.
I think that happens, and the reason I feel that way is that I suspect the Saints will end up coming back and winning that division. The Packers have the tiebreaker in hand over New Orleans, and given the schedule I think they can end the season tied with the Saints on overall record, giving Green Bay the edge.
If Tampa Bay wins the South, that would bump the Packers down to the third seed, but I’ll stick with my gut that New Orleans overcomes Sean Payton’s inexplicable insistence on using Taysom Hill in critical game situations to win the division, handing the Packers a home game in the newly-created 2 vs. 7 game.
Like Tex, I’m pretty confident in Green Bay winning the NFC North, but it will likely come down to the Packers/Bears games to decide that. I think GB has a distinct edge there. I think GB gets to 12 wins (losses to SF, IND, and one of TEN/CHI) and 12 wins is probably not enough for the one-seed. I’m guessing an NFC West team squeaks out 13 wins, but we may get into weird tiebreaker scenarios.
The NFC East winner is obviously going to be the 4 seed, and the NFC South teams are playing from behind on wins already, so I’ll peg them for the 3 spot. It’s actually really important for GB to not slip up to lesser opponents as the 1 seed is more important now than ever with the expanded playoffs. Unfortunately I think one of LAR or SEA get to 13 and the Packers are left, once again, having to play a road game to get to the Super Bowl.
Shawn Wagner: 3
Tampa Bay is certainly a contender in the NFC this year, but the Buccaneers exposed the Packers’ weaknesses in many areas on Sunday. And I think it will be more than just a one-game fluke.
Similar to the NFC Championship Game last year, Green Bay’s offense got into another lull it could not get out of. Aaron Rodgers four-week rhythm immediately crashed the moment he threw an interception and his footwork and hesitancy to deliver the ball quickly resulted in the incompletions and sacks we saw last season. Part of the concern is Rodgers in that area, but the right tackle position continues to scare me. There will be more good defenses this season that the Packers will face and the playcalling must improve when adversity strikes.
Defensively, like against San Francisco, Green Bay simply could not make adjustments to stop the Tampa offense against either the pass or run. Perhaps the most alarming part is the consistent lack of pass rush. Mike Pettine’s defense doesn’t appear to be making any strides.
The Packers are still a good team and should win the NFC North. But I still have them behind Seattle and Tampa Bay looking ahead to the postseason, sensing that there will be a few more disappointments this regular season when the offense isn’t rolling along.
Paul Noonan: 2
The Packers don’t play many good defenses and their offense is still great. That should be enough to get them into the 11-5, 12-4 range, and good enough for the 2-seed. While Tampa is a very good team that now owns a convincing tiebreaker with the Packers, they’re vulnerable against teams with good defenses. Green Bay doesn’t have one of those which is why they lost, but plenty of other teams do. Throw in a slightly tougher schedule, and I think the Packers can get it done, not that it matters much under the new playoff format.
The bigger concern for Green Bay is running into a team like Tampa Bay, or the actual Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Until Matt LaFleur solves the problem of fast inside linebackers, the offense will continue to struggle against them, and without a competent defensive coordinator to run their defense, it’s offense or nothing for Green Bay.
Kris Burke: 3
I can’t help but see terrifyingly similar results for this year’s Packers to that of the 2015 squad following a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. Like this year’s group, the 2015 team was also undefeated going into a nationally televised game where the offense was promptly pantsed by Wade Phillips and the eventual Super Bowl champions.
While the offense was not going at a historical pace then like the 2020 team, they were still scoring 27+ points in five of their first six games. Sadly those Packers never recovered from the beating in Denver and Aaron Rodgers went on to have arguably the worst year of his career. The Packers did make the playoffs and did get oh-so-close to an NFC championship berth, but the offense was never the same.
What this year’s team does have going for them over five years ago is Matt LaFleur has yet to experience a losing streak as a head coach and also a very weak division. The Bears might be in first place now but does anyone really believe they’ll be able to keep the Packers at bay?
The NFC East is all but guaranteed to have the fourth worst division champion so it’s safe to say Green Bay finishes no lower than third. Tampa Bay is a legitimate contender and also holds the tiebreaker now over the Packers and Seattle has a leg up already as the lone remaining NFC undefeated.
My guess is the Packers and Bucs finished tied for second with Tampa Bay getting the tiebreaker. Thankfully however, thanks to the new playoff format, the Packers won’t lose out on a bye.
Peter Bukowski: 1
Let’s have some fun because everyone else is saying 2. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Packers have a 15% chance to get the 1 seed, which is actually better than the Buccaneers despite the head-to-head loss. That comes from playing in a tougher division and already going down in their tiebreaker with the Saints thanks to the Week 1 New Orleans win.
It’s Green Bay and Seattle for that top spot. The Packers play in a much weaker division and the Seahawks have yet to play even one division game, which means 6 games against the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals. The Packers don’t have 6 games against teams that good anywhere on their schedule — and I’d argue all three are better than the paper-est of paper tigers in Chicago.
They also get the Bills in Week 9 plus the Eagles in Week 12 when they might not have their entire team on the injury report. I don’t know if the Packers are the best team, but looking at the schedules, it’s not at all crazy to think they have the best chance of winning the most games.
Maybe they’ll be the worst 13-3 team in history … again .