After a thrilling finish against the Bears and some help from the New York Giants, the Packers now control their own destiny heading into the final stretch of regular season play.
With two divisional games left against the Vikings and the much anticipated season finally against the Lions, Green Bay can win out and take the division title.
There is still a chance for three teams in the North to get into the playoffs. The Vikings will need a lot of help, but the Wild Card spot is theoretically still an option for all three teams.
Detroit Lions: Current Record (9-5), 1st in Division
Detroit may have had the toughest schedule in the league to finish out the season. The Lions lost last week to one of the hottest teams in the league in the New York Giants; they will now head to Dallas to play the best team in the NFC, and they’ll end the year with a game to decide their season against the Packers. Detroit’s sling of second half comebacks finally came to an end, but this team has proven that even when down, it seems to find a way to win. The solution has been relying on their MVP-caliber quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has been thriving despite not having any sort of running game to assist the offense. However, Detroit’s much-improved defense seems to be the underlying cause of their success this year. If their leader in the secondary, Darius Slay, can stay in the lineup, this team can compete with any sort of passing attack. While Detroit has had impressive wins this year, their best win this year has been against Washington. That is the only playoff eligible team they have beat, which brings into question if they even have a chance to win out and seal their own fate. If they fall behind a good team like Dallas, they might not be able to pull out another miracle win.
Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys, vs. Packers
Win NFC North if: win + Packers loss
Clinch playoff spot if: win + Buccaneers loss OR Redskins loss, Buccaneers loss, Falcons win
Prediction: 9-7, no playoff berth
Green Bay Packers: Current Record (8-6), 2nd in Division
Packer fans have to be content with the position that Green Bay is currently in. They have continued to “Run the Table” and go into next week against a struggling Vikings team, and finish of the year against a Detroit team that has been difficult to predict all year. The Vikings did scrape by with a win in week 2 against the Packers, but they were a very different team at that point in the season. Additionally, Green Bay is a much-improved team as they have hit their stride coming into the final stretch of the season. The Packers also seem to be getting out of the injury bug, as much of their starting secondary has gotten back into the lineup. However, both Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers clearly are nowhere near 100 percent healthy, and it has shown in Matthews’ limited snaps and Rodgers inability to effectively run the ball. Also, just when the Packers secondary seemed to begin picking up the slack by getting five interceptions the previous game, and three against Chicago, they fell apart in the fourth quarter. There is no question that this offense is one of the top tier forces in the league, especially with Ty Montgomery turning into a threat in the backfield and Jared Cook finally becoming a go-to target for Rodgers, but if this defense can’t hold up against an offense like the Chicago Bears, will they be able to handle the likes of Matthew Stafford or Sam Bradford? Despite this, the Packers appear to have the best offense in the division, and it appears that this division will come down to Week 17 against Detroit.
Remaining Schedule: vs. Vikings, @ Lions
Win NFC North if: they win out
Clinch playoff spot in week 16 if: win + Redskins loss + Buccaneers loss AND five of the following teams win: Jaguars, Browns, Falcons, Rams, Texans, Broncos, Lions (strength of schedule)
Prediction: 10-6, win NFC North
Minnesota Vikings: Current Record (7-7), 3rd in Division
Before the Vikings’ abysmal performance last week against the Colts, they had a legitimate chance at the division title. Now they are clinging onto hopes of staying in the hunt for the Wild Card race. The Vikings can no longer win the division even if Detroit loses both of its games because the Lions swept the Vikings this year. New York or Dallas will take one of the two Wild Card spots depending on who wins the NFC East, so that limits the Vikings to the final Wild Card position. Washington and Tampa Bay are still ahead of Minnesota so they would both need to lose out in order for the Vikings to have a chance. Having a poor record in the division is what killed the Vikings’ chances this year at winning the division, as their only win so far has been against the Packers. Winning out it definitely not out of the question for this team, but winning at Lambeau in December is no easy task. Rodgers hasn’t lost a home game in December since 2008, meaning the Vikings will have their work cut out for them. Even with Peterson back, Minnesota has not performed at a playoff level since week 5, meaning they will need a major overhaul to even consider the playoffs.
Remaining Schedule: @ Packers, vs. Bears
Can no longer win NFC North
Make the playoffs if: win out + Buccaneers lose twice + Washington loses twice + Packers week 17 loss
Prediction: 8-8, no playoff berth