GREEN BAY – It’s back! Yes, with December arriving and the Packers in the postseason hunt, Path to the Playoffs has returned to packers.com.
For those who aren’t familiar or have forgotten (how could you?), this is a weekly post that provides a rundown on all the other games that could have an impact on Green Bay’s postseason chances and/or seeding.
Most critically, it provides advice on whom to root for to help the Packers.
As usual, it starts with the NFC North race, and the Packers (8-3) are in great shape with a three-game lead over the Vikings (5-6) and Bears (5-6) with five games to play.
That means, regardless of what Minnesota and Chicago do the rest of the way, Green Bay can clinch its second straight division title with three more wins. Hopefully the first one comes Sunday vs. Philadelphia.
But losses by the Vikings and Bears would hurry along the process. So in that context, as Minnesota hosts Jacksonville (1-10) while Chicago hosts Detroit (4-7), it’s best to cheer for the Lions to beat the Bears and for the Jaguars to top the Vikings.
In the larger NFC playoff picture, the Packers are tied with the Seahawks (8-3) for the second-best record in the conference, one game back of the Saints (9-2) for the top spot.
Seattle hosts the N.Y. Giants (4-7), who may be without starting QB Daniel Jones, lessening the chances for an upset. But the Seahawks are coming off long road trip on a short week, so you never know. Pull for the Giants to surprise the Seahawks.
Meanwhile, New Orleans travels to Atlanta (4-7), where the Falcons are 4-2 under interim coach Raheem Morris (and would be 5-1 had Todd Gurley managed to fall down on the 1-yard line vs. Detroit several weeks back), and last week they just blasted AFC playoff contender Las Vegas.
The Saints don’t have starting QB Drew Brees back yet, and nothing can be taken for granted in division rivalries. If the Falcons can knock off the Saints, the race for the No. 1 seed and lone playoff bye gets blown wide open.
In addition, two NFC postseason hopefuls are going head-to-head this week as Arizona (6-5) hosts the L.A. Rams (7-4). The good news here is one of them has to lose, which helps the Packers’ playoff chances should the division start to slip away and the wild-card picture suddenly matter. So there’s really no wrong choice.
In the NFC West race, if you’d prefer to see someone challenge the Seahawks for the division title, then root for the Rams – who play Seattle again in Week 16 – to keep pace. Otherwise, pull for the Cardinals to give another NFC team a fifth loss.
Last (and probably least important), there’s little chance San Francisco (5-6), which hosts Buffalo (8-3), will impact Green Bay’s scenarios much. But if you’d like the defending NFC champions’ chances to repeat to take a significant hit, cheer for the Bills to beat the 49ers on Monday night.