GREEN BAY—Root for the Bears, Panthers, Cardinals and 49ers to lose this week. That means last week’s foes, the Vikings, are now your best friend, and you’re asking the Buccaneers and Rams to help the Packers for a second straight Sunday.
Following Thursday’s 30-point loss at Detroit, the Packers’ path to the playoffs is now chock full of obstacles. Serious help is needed in Week 13.
It starts in the NFC North, where the Packers, at 5-6-1, now must win their final four games and have both the 7-5 Lions and 6-5 Bears lose twice in order for Green Bay to claim its third straight division crown.
The Packers can take care of one of those Bears losses in Week 17, but it wouldn't hurt to have the other happen sooner rather than later. That puts Chicago at Minnesota at the top of this week’s list of games to watch, as the Packers need the Vikings to knock off the Bears.
After that, everything else listed here will impact a potential wild-card berth.
Any talk of a wild-card spot may reside in hope-and-dream land as far as the Packers are concerned, but for now we’ll stick with mathematical reality, which is this – any team that gets to seven losses would fall behind the Packers if Green Bay can win out.
The team the Packers will have the hardest time catching is 8-3 Carolina, which has won seven straight. The Panthers would have to lose four of five games to finish behind a Green Bay team that runs the table, which isn’t likely.
But Carolina does have two games left against NFC South leader New Orleans, so it’s worth rooting for the Buccaneers to extend their winning streak to four games by beating the Panthers. Tampa Bay helped its fellow “Bay” last week with an upset of the Lions.
After Carolina, the next-hottest team in the NFC might be 7-4 Arizona, which travels to 6-5 Philadelphia, where the Eagles are fighting to stay tied for first atop the NFC East. In a perfect world, the Packers would prefer they both lose (and, speaking of the NFC East, would have preferred Oakland not to blow that 14-point lead in Dallas as the Packers’ team plane returned from Detroit).
But all things considered, it’s best to root for the Eagles to hand the Cardinals their fifth loss. Remember, seven losses is sort of the magic number here, and the Eagles already have five, while the Cardinals are much less likely to get to seven if they enter December with only four.
San Francisco is 7-4 and has a tough NFC West matchup on its hands against the Rams, who manhandled the Bears a week ago and have played the 49ers tough over the past two seasons. A St. Louis win over San Francisco would get the 5-6 Rams back in the wild-card picture but would also tug the 49ers down a bit.
Finally, the Monday night contest pits two NFC division leaders head-to-head, New Orleans and Seattle. The Packers already have no chance of matching the Seahawks’ 10 wins, so barring the almost inconceivable, which would be the 9-2 Saints losing their final five games, this one really doesn’t matter.
But if you want to keep every mathematical possibility on the table for at least one more week, then root for the Seahawks to defeat the Saints.