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Packers 2022 Playoff Scenarios: What help Green Bay needs to make the postseason

It really all comes down to two teams in the NFC East and two in the NFC West.

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Washington Commanders v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Let’s face it: the Green Bay Packers’ postseason dreams are on life support. Depending on which projections you look at, the team has anywhere from a 4% chance of earning an NFC Wild Card spot (538) to 11% odds (via The Athletic).

That’s not promising. But just what scenarios could result in Green Bay getting in? After all, it’s worth knowing what to root for during the Packers’ bye and over the the final five weeks overall. Here, we’ll break down what Green Bay needs to do in order to catch each of the teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race and what combinations of circumstances would result in a playoff berth for the Green and Gold.

First of all: win out

Before we worry about other teams, of course, the Packers need to win out. Technically, one more loss down the stretch — either to the Rams a week from Monday or to the Dolphins on Christmas Day — would not eliminate Green Bay on its own, but it would drop playoff odds to well below one percent (per 538) and the team would need basically every single following result to go their way.

Instead, sweeping the final four games of the season sends the Packers to 9-8 overall, with a 4-2 division record by virtue of victories over the Vikings and Lions in weeks 17 and 18 and a 7-5 record in NFC games. Keep those numbers in mind, as they’ll be important in a bit for tiebreaker purposes.

There’s still a little bit of wiggle room at 9-8, though it’s exceedingly slim. Fall to 8-9 and that wiggle room reverts to essentially zero. With that in mind, let’s assume Green Bay wins out — what other help will they need?

Current Playoff Picture

Here’s a look at the NFC playoff standings as it currently sits:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (9-3)
  6. New York Giants (7-4-1)
  7. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
  8. Washington Commanders (7-5-1)
  9. Detroit Lions (5-7)
  10. Green Bay Packers (5-8)
  11. Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

Obviously, the Packers need to make up some serious ground, passing up at least three teams ahead of them to get into the seventh seed. Here’s a look at what they’ll need to do just that.

An NFC East collapse

The NFC East could end up putting four teams in the playoffs this year. The 11-1 Eagles look like they’ll coast to a division title, with the Dallas Cowboys in the driver’s seat for the top Wild Card spot at 9-3. Behind them are the New York Giants (7-4-1) and Washington Commanders (7-5-1), who tied a week ago, a result that actually did hurt the Packers.

Here’s the problem: Green Bay needs to jump one or both of these two teams in the standings. The tie increased the Packers’ chances of overcoming both, but only by a tiny amount, while decreasing the likelihood that the Packers could pass one or the other. In other words, a loss for either team last week would have been more helpful than the tie for both.

But what’s done is done, and now the head-to-head tiebreakers won’t enter into the equation: the Packers just need one or both of those two teams to finish 8-8-1 (or worse). That would mean the Giants going no better than 1-4 down the stretch or the Commanders going 1-3 in their last four games after their week 14 bye. The Packers would love to see the Eagles beat the Giants this week, which appears likely. If that happens, a 1-3 finish from either of these two gets that team to 8-8-1 and the Packers pass them up at 9-8.

But again, here’s the problem: these two teams play again in week 15, and someone is going to get a win in that game, barring a ludicrous second tie. The Packers’ best hope then is for the loser of that game to keep on losing, and both of these teams do have tough slates over the final three games. The Giants play at Minnesota, at home against the Colts, and at the Eagles; if they lose in weeks 14/15, they could very feasibly lose to the Vikings and Eagles and get to that 8-8-1 mark. The Commanders then finish with the 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys, also facing two possible division winners.

The ideal situation is that the only win from these two teams combined comes in that head-to-head matchup. But the more plausible scenario for Packers fans to pull for is for the loser of Giants-Commanders to lose two of their final three games.

NFC West Chaos

If the Packers can pass up both of the Giants and Commanders, they won’t need help from an NFC West team. But if Green Bay can only get clear of one of those two, they must pass up either the 8-4 49ers or the 7-5 Seahawks as well.

Things look good for a 9-8 Packers team in a two-way tiebreaker with either of these two teams, however. That would require a 1-4 finish from San Francisco or a 2-3 stretch from Seattle to pull the teams even on their records.

Here’s where tiebreakers start to come into play. Let’s look at San Francisco first. Should they fall behind the Seahawks for the division title and drop back into the Wild Card race at 9-8, the Packers would hold the two-way tiebreaker. That 1-4 finish would give them a best-case NFC record of 7-5, matching that of the Packers. However, the third tiebreaker, record against common opponents, goes to Green Bay, by a 5-1 vs. 4-2 margin. Thus, a 1-4 collapse by the Brock Purdy-led Niners, no matter where their win comes from, would do the job.

If Seattle does go 2-3 to finish 9-8, where their wins come from could matter. The best their NFC record could end up would be 7-5, matching that of the Packers, but the two teams could also finish with identical 3-3 records against common opponents. That would then send the tiebreaker to strength of victory, which currently favors the Packers but could be particularly fickle down the stretch. To ensure a tiebreaker for Green Bay, Packers fans need to cheer for the Seahawks to finish with a worse conference record.

Seattle has three NFC games and two AFC games remaining. They could finish 9-8 with a 2-1 record in the NFC games, which would get them to 7-5 on the season, but if they go 1-2 in those three games and 1-1 against AFC teams, that would give Green Bay the edge.

It’s worth noting that San Francisco and Seattle could tie for the division title at 9-8. The two teams do play again in week 15, however. A 49ers win would give them a season sweep and the tiebreaker; a Seahawks win would send the tiebreaker to division record, which could depend on the results of week 18 games. The loser of that tiebreaker would then have to compete with the Packers for the Wild Card tiebreaker as described above.

The Lions

There’s one final complicating factor in the standings: the Detroit Lions. If the Packers win out, they will pull even (at worst) with the Lions at 9-8. Detroit winning the rest of their games against non-Packers teams could match that record, and at that point the teams would have matching 4-2 division records and 7-5 conference records. That would send the tiebreaker to strength of victory.

Thus, the Packers would be better off if the Lions lose to the Vikings in week 14, which would ensure that a Green Bay win-out scenario pushes them clear of Detroit no matter what. But as long as the Lions lose one more game at any point before week 18, they won’t enter into the equation.

The Falcons?

Don’t worry about Atlanta. If the Packers win out, they’ll have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Falcons no matter what, and Green Bay will take any three-way tiebreaker that involves the Falcons and an NFC West team.

Possible Scenarios

Let’s recap the possible pathways for the Packers to make the postseason as a Wild Card, with all of these scenarios assuming that Green Bay run the table and finish 9-8. The other essential bit in all of these scenarios is the Lions either losing a second game down the stretch or the Packers claiming a strength of victory tiebreaker over Detroit.

Here’s what else Green Bay would need:

Scenario 1

  1. Giants go 1-4 or worse to finish no better than 8-8-1, AND
  2. Commanders go 1-3 or worse to finish no better than 8-8-1

Scenario 2

  1. Giants OR Commanders finish no better than 8-8-1, AND
  2. Seahawks win NFC West, AND
  3. 49ers go 1-4 or worse to finish no better than 9-8

Scenario 3

  1. Giants OR Commanders finish no better than 8-8-1, AND
  2. Seahawks go 1-4 to finish 8-9

Scenario 4

  1. Giants OR Commanders finish no better than 8-8-1, AND
  2. Seahawks go 2-3 to finish 9-8, AND Seahawks go 1-2 in remaining conference games OR finish with worse strength of victory than Packers

In other words, Packers fans need to cheer for losses for all of the Giants, Commanders, 49ers, and Seahawks in the final five weeks, keeping an especially close eye on the NFC East teams. They still must pass at least one of those two in order to get into playoff position; but if they can pass both of them, they won’t need to worry about the NFC West race.

Either way, week 15 will be a big one for all four of these franchises, however, as that week features head-to-head matchups in Giants-Commanders and 49ers-Seahawks. Simply put, Green Bay will need the losers of these games to continue losing the rest of the season.