Winning their final four games is still not enough for the Green Bay Packers to make the postseason — at least not alone. Getting four wins in the final four weeks only puts the Packers’ playoff odds at around 57%, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, requiring significant help from other teams to get Green Bay into at least the 7th spot in the NFC.
As we have detailed here at APC recently, the Packers need to pass up two of the Giants, Commanders, and Seahawks in order to get there. Those three teams will therefore be the teams to watch down the stretch, and one game in week 15 is especially important — and if it goes the wrong way, it projects to cut Green Bay’s postseason odds in half compared to the favorable result.
Of course, the Giants and Commanders play each other again this week after playing to a tie in week 13. As was the case two weeks ago, a tie is the worst-case scenario for reasons that will be explained shortly.
Here’s what Packers fans still hoping for a playoff berth should be cheering for this week.
49ers over Seahawks (Thursday Night Football)
Outside of the Packers’ own result against the Rams on Monday Night Football, this contest has the biggest impact of any this week on Green Bay’s playoff chances. Since the 49ers beat the Buccaneers last week, they now hold a two-game lead on the Seahawks for the division and a 4-game lead on the Packers, who are only two games back of Seattle.
Therefore, a 49ers win is extremely important for Green Bay and several other teams in the NFC playoff hunt. That result plus a Packers win on Monday would pull the Packers to within a game of Seattle and doubles Green Bay’s playoff odds compared with a Seahawks victory.
Assuming a Packers victory in week 15, the 49ers winning improves Green Bay’s playoff odds to 11% according to FiveThirtyEight.com. But if Seattle wins, that number drops all the way to 5%.
If we assume that the Packers win out in their last four games, that puts them at 57% to make the playoffs regardless of other results. Assuming that, the swing in playoff odds from a 49ers win to a Seahawks win just on Thursday night is a huge one, however, taking the Packers’ odds from 75% to just 39%.
UPDATE: The 49ers delivered with a win on Thursday night, helping out the Packers and the other teams chasing the Seahawks. This improved the Packers’ odds of making the playoffs to 8% before Monday night, to 11% with a win over the Rams this week, and all the way up to that 75% number if they win out over their final four games.
Jets over Lions
Last week, we discussed how the Packers need the Lions to lose one more game before their game at Lambeau Field in week 18 to ensure without a doubt that the Packers can avoid complicated tiebreakers against Detroit. Even though Green Bay looks good in a tiebreaker scenario, a Lions loss in the Meadowlands will do the trick. Matt LaFleur would surely like to see the team coached by his best friend, Robert Saleh, and his brother, Mike, give the Packers a hand.
Again, assuming a Packers win over the Rams, the swing in their 538 playoff odds goes from 9% from a Jets win down to 6% with a Lions victory. Here’s hoping for a Lions loss to avoid any possibility of convoluted strength of victory scenarios heading into week 18.
UPDATE: With the 49ers winning on Thursday, wins by the Jets and Packers this weekend now boost Green Bay’s playoff odds up to 12%, while a Lions win pushes the Packers’ odds down just a bit to 8%.
Like above, let’s look at the playoff odds assuming that the Packers win out. A Jets win bumps the Packers’ playoff odds up to 77%, while a Lions win leaves Green Bay at 75%.
Commanders over Giants (Sunday Night Football)
Impact: Small, but at least cheer for a winner rather than another tie
The interesting thing about this game is that the two NFC East teams are still tied at 7-5-1 on the season, and the Packers need the loser of this game to drop two of their final three as well to finish at 8-8-1. For two reasons, the 538 model sees the Giants as the more likely team to drop to that level by the end of the season: first, it sees New York as having a tougher remaining schedule and second, it views the Commanders as a better team right now.
The greater likelihood of the Giants dropping two of their last three is why the model thinks that a Washington victory is slightly more advantageous to Green Bay than a Giants victory. Assuming Green Bay wins on Monday, there’s a one percent change in the Packers’ playoff odds from a Commanders win (8%) to a Giants win (7%).
A tie is bad news, however, dropping those odds to 6%. That is because the Packers would then need one team to lose all three remaining games rather than going 1-2 to pass them up. A 1-2 record for the Giants, for example, would put them at 8-7-2 instead of 8-8-1. In that case, they and the Packers would have an equal winning percentage (0.529) and a two-way tiebreaker goes against the Packers because of their head-to-head losses to both potential opponents.
There is only one way that APC can find for the Packers to come out as a playoff team over an 8-7-2 NFC East team, and it requires a 3-way tie between the 8-7-2 Giants, the 9-8 Packers, and the 9-8 Falcons. In that case, the Packers would get the spot based on conference record (over the Giants) and common opponent record (over the Falcons).
UPDATE: The 49ers’ win adjusts the numbers slightly here as well. If Green Bay wins, their odds stay at 11 or 10% as long as there’s a winner in the Sunday Night Football game. But if it ends in a tie, that drops to 9%.
Assuming the Packers win out, the impact of the tie is more clearly visible. A Commanders win puts Green Bay’s playoff odds at 77% absent any other results; a Giants win drops them to 72%; but a tie sends them dropping significantly to just 58%.
Falcons over Saints
Impact: Almost unimaginably small
This only becomes a factor if there is a tie between the Giants and Commanders on Sunday night. As described above, the Packers would need to get a 3-way tie to overcome an 8-7-2 Giants team, which requires the Falcons winning out. The chances that it comes down to that are far slimmer than even the Packers’ current playoff odds, however.