GREEN BAY – The most important game of Week 14 affecting the Packers’ playoff prospects is already in the books, with Arizona’s three-point victory over Minnesota on Thursday night.
That result gives the Packers (8-4) a chance to move a game ahead of the Vikings (8-5) in the NFC North with a win on Sunday. It also means the Packers need a win to stay within two games of the Cardinals (11-2) in the race for a possible first-round bye.
Elsewhere, there are a handful of other games worth paying attention to for their residual impact on Green Bay’s position, but it isn’t always cut-and-dried which team Packers fans should want to win. Thinking caps are required.
We’ll start with the obvious ones: Seattle (7-5) at Baltimore (4-8) and New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6). Both the Seahawks and the Buccaneers are squarely in the wild-card hunt, so it’s best to root for the Ravens and Saints to pull upsets.
Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0) is also pretty clear-cut, with the Falcons also in the wild-card race and the Panthers already so far ahead, but there’s a catch.
If you prefer to hold out for every last mathematical possibility, you’ll want to know that there’s actually still a chance for the Packers to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They would have to win out, have the Panthers lose out, and have the Cardinals also finish 12-4 to create a three-way tie. In that scenario, Green Bay is the NFC’s top seed.
If you feel entertaining that rather remote possibility is a waste of time, though, then root for the Panthers to continue the Falcons’ free-fall out of the playoff picture.
The rest of the games in this week’s discussion lend themselves to counterintuitive thinking, so please follow along closely.
Normally, in AFC-NFC matchups such as Buffalo (6-6) at Philadelphia (5-7) and the New York Giants (5-7) at Miami (5-7), Green Bay fans would pull for the AFC squads.
But not in these cases. The Packers are comfortably three games ahead of both the Eagles and Giants, who are on the fringe of the playoff chase. Rather than cheer for the knockout blow, however, it’s actually best to root for the NFC teams to win here.
Why? Because within the next two weeks, Philadelphia will play Arizona and New York will play Minnesota, so it could be to the Packers’ benefit if both the Eagles and Giants stay in the playoff hunt. If they have postseason hopes at stake when they play the other playoff contenders, they might be able to help Green Bay.
For the same reason, the coin-flip Washington (5-7) at Chicago (5-7) matchup calls for supporting the Bears, who need a win to stay alive before visiting the Vikings next week.
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