Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and December is nearly here, NFL fans can truly begin to obsess over the league’s playoff picture and their favorite teams’ paths to the postseason. For the Green Bay Packers, week 12 could be a bit of a turning point as the team has gone from long shots to a coin flip in a matter of days.
The Packers’ big Thanksgiving Day win over the Detroit Lions was the primary driver of this week’s boost in the team’s playoff chances, but they got another substantial bit of help from one other NFC North team on Monday Night Football in the other divisional rivalry game this weekend. The Chicago Bears earned a 12-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last night, a result that helps the Packers significantly.
First, let’s look at where the Packers need help the most, and the realistic pathway for the Packers to reach a postseason berth is clear. The NFC North division is all but out of reach, as the Lions hold a three-game lead on the Packers with six games to play. Meanwhile, whichever of the Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles does not win the NFC East will probably claim the #5 seed as the best Wild Card team. But the NFC’s final two playoff seeds are very much up for grabs, and coming into this week they were held by the 6-4 Seattle Seahawks and the Vikings, who were 6-5 heading into Monday’s game.
After Sunday’s results, the New York Times’ playoff simulator gave the Packers a 45% chance of making the postseason. With the Vikings’ loss to Chicago dropping them to 6-6 — just a half-game ahead of the Packers and even in the loss column — those odds are now up to an even 50/50 split.
The Times’ predictor also offers up the effect on the Packers’ playoff odds for every remaining game on the remaining schedule across the entire NFL. A 5% shift in playoff odds as the result of Monday’s game may not seem like a lot, but when it comes as the result of a week 12 game that the affected team is not even playing in, that is indeed a dramatic shift. Only one other non-Packers game left on the schedule could, all on its own, raise the Packers’ current playoff odds by 5% or more with the right result — that is the Commanders defeating the Rams in week 15.
Conversely, there are a select few remaining games that could drop Green Bay’s postseason odds by 5% or more absent any other results, most of which involve the Seahawks. Seattle beating the Cowboys this Thursday in week 13 would drop Green Bay’s odds by 5%, and In fact, each of the Seahawks’ next three games would have that impact if they win; however, after they face the Cowboys on the road, they host the Eagles and visit the 49ers, all extremely tough games. If Seattle drops all three of those, Green Bay’s odds get a nice boost to 59%.
If the Packers can take care of their own business by winning four of the final six games to finish 9-8 and they get a collapse from either the Vikings or the Seattle Seahawks down the stretch, that should do the trick. Minnesota’s loss on Monday night was a big first step in the right direction.