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NFC North Title Race, Standings, Playoff Tie-Breakers

With the Detroit Lions losing two of their last three games, the NFC North is within reach for this surging Green Bay Packers team.

Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The stars continue to align for this Green Bay Packers team in the second half of the 2023 season. Once left for dead in the playoff hunt, the Packers have now won four of their last five games, all while getting some help elsewhere in the NFC.

In the wildcard race, the Los Angeles Rams dropped a game to the Baltimore Ravenswhich was the Packers’ most desired outcome of Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks, who once held a wildcard spot, too, have lost five of their last six games.

In the division, the Lions have now lost two of their last three games — both coming in divisional matchups — as they now sit with a 9-4 record. At 6-6, the Packers only have two more losses than the Lions, as Green Bay stares down the easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL.

So how likely is it that the Packers will actually win the division now? According to the New York Times’ playoff machine, Green Bay has a 72 percent chance to make the cut for the playoffs and a six percent chance to win the division. For perspective, the Lions have an 86 percent chance to win the North, the Vikings have a seven percent chance and the Bears have less than a one percent chance.

Below are the NFC standings following Sunday’s action:

  1. Detroit Lions: 9-4
  2. Minnesota Vikings: 7-6
  3. Green Bay Packers: 6-6
  4. Chicago Bears: 5-8

If Packers fans are going to start looking at tie-breakers, we should focus in on how they match up against the Lions. Sure, the Vikings or Bears could enter into the three-way tie-breaker conversation at some point, but let’s cross that bridge if it ever manifests itself. On Sunday, the Vikings won a game by the score of 3-0, on the back of their fourth quarterback this season, while the Bears are still three wins from being a .500 squad.

Tie Breaker #1: head-to-head

If the Lions and Packers end up finishing with the same record by the end of the season, the first NFC North tie-breaker will be their head-to-head games. These two teams have already split their Thursday matchups, so we can go ahead and skip to the next tie-breaker.

Tie Breaker #2: division record

The second-order tie-breaker is each team’s divisional record. At the moment, both teams are 2-2 in the division with two games left to play. The Packers go against the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 17, and they play the Bears in Green Bay in Week 18. The Lions still have to play the Vikings twice, once in Minnesota in Week 16 and finally in Detroit in Week 18.

If the Packers can get the edge on the Lions in these divisional games, it would go a long way for the team in a tie-breaker scenario.

Tie Breaker #3: common games

Starting with tie-breaker number three, things start to unravel for Green Bay. The Lions are already 8-1 against common opponents with the Packers with three common opponents (Broncos and Vikings twice) remaining. Meanwhile, Green Bay is 4-4 against the Lions’ common opponents with four remaining games against common opponents on the schedule. After Monday Night Football, all of the Packers’ opponents will be common opponents with the Lions.

What does this mean? First of all, the Packers would need to win out — at least after the Giants game — to even match the Lions’ common game record. Secondly, Detroit would need to lose out against the Packers’ common opponents, including two divisional games.

From a Green Bay perspective, common opponents are irrelevant, as an absolute best-case scenario would lead to a tie in tiebreaker #3 that would then give the Packers the edge in the second tie-breaker (division record). To put it simply, the only way for the Packers to win a tie-breaker scenario against the Lions at this point is to win via tiebreaker #2.

As we mentioned before, the Vikings or Bears could technically come in and force a three-way tie-breaker that would be much more complicated to track, but in a straight-up Lions vs. Packers situation, it’s going to come down to divisional games. If Green Bay can get a one-game advantage there, while making up two overall losses over their last five games of the season, that’s how they can win the NFC North title. Everything else is a virtual non-factor unless there’s a three-way tie-breaker. That’s the easiest way to track the NFC North race right now.