The Packers playoff chances are still really quite bad. But are we saying there’s a chance …?
If you wanted a percentage chance that the Green Bay Packers make the 2022 playoffs, you’d still have to go with a single-digit number. And a low one. Think in the neighborhood of 3%.
But don’t let anyone tell you the odds, right?
So what has to happen for Green Bay to pull off a miracle? For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Packers win their final four games of the year and close at 9-8.
We already know Green Bay can’t win the NFC North and can’t catch the Cowboys for one of the three wild-card spots, so there are only two possible spots available, both wild-card slots currently held by the Commanders (7-5-1) and Giants (7-5-1).
Additionally, the Seahawks (7-6) and Lions (6-7) rank ahead of the Packers. The Panthers and Falcons are both 5-8 and tied with Green Bay. If Arizona beats New England on Monday night, the Cardinals will also be 5-8.
The Commanders play the Giants this week, so one of those teams (likely … they both already have a tie) is going to move to 8-5-1 and further cement their spot; it would take losses in each of the final three games of the year for the winner to possibly fall below the Packers.
The Packers close the year against the Los Angeles Rams (4-9), in Miami (8-5), and at home against Minnesota (10-3) and Detroit (6-7). If they run the table, what else has to happen? Let’s consider the contenders.
New York Giants (7-5-1)
Teams to face: at Washington (7-5-1), at Minnesota (10-3), vs. Indianapolis (4-8-1), at Philadelphia (12-1)
If you believe in home vs. road, this is a tough schedule with trips to Minnesota and Philadelphia remaining, so Packers fans might see this team as the more likely to collapse down the stretch (and determine their preference for the Giants-Commanders game accordingly). The winner of that matchup will finish the season ahead of the Packers unless it goes 0-3 to close the year, and the Giants might be the better bet to follow up a loss with three more. Or maybe that means Packers fans want the Giants to beat Washington to set up the possibility that Green Bay passes both.
Washington Commanders (7-5-1)
Teams to face: vs. New York Giants (7-5-1), at San Francisco (9-4), vs. Cleveland (5-8), vs. Dallas (10-3)
Like the Giants, Washington has two toughies remaining and one comparatively lighter game after their NFC East tilt this weekend, but Washington closes the year with two home games, and Dallas might very well be wedged into the No. 5 seed by the time that game rolls around, leaving little else to play for.
The bottom line is that these NFC East teams are a major problem. All they have to do is win twice more to cement themselves ahead of Green Bay for the season. Green Bay could really use both of them closing the year at 1-3 or worse, and one of those teams is getting a win Sunday (or a tie, which would also be bad for Green Bay, but we’ll cross that bridge later).
Seattle Seahawks (7-6)
Teams to face: vs. San Francisco (9-4), at Kansas City (10-3), vs. New York Jets (7-6), vs. Los Angeles Rams (4-9)
In addition to needing either Washington or the Giants to torpedo, the Packers need the Seahawks to lose at least twice the rest of the way (preferably three times so Green Bay can pass the Seahawks on record alone). Let’s say Seattle splits and ties Green Bay at 9-8. Who gets the tiebreaker, since they didn’t play this year?
First tiebreaker: NFC record. Seattle is currently 5-5 and Green Bay is 4-5 but would finish 7-5 in our win-out scenario. So if one of Seattle’s losses are against San Francisco or Los Angeles, the Packers finish ahead of Seattle. If Seattle beats the 49ers and Rams but loses to the Chiefs and Jets, it activates the next tiebreaker.
Second tiebreaker: Common games. The Seahawks have played the Lions, Giants, Buccaneers and Rams, with the Jets and Rams still to come. They’re 3-1 in those games with two to play, and the Packers are 1-3 in those games with two to play. In our scenario, Green Bay moves to 3-3, but to even get to this tiebreaker, Seattle has beaten the Rams and grabbed at least a fourth win in common games. So, Green Bay loses the tiebreaker if it gets this far.
Bottom line: The Seahawks need to lose at least twice more and one of those needs to be against an NFC team.
Detroit Lions (6-7)
Teams to face: at New York Jets (7-6), at Carolina (5-8), vs. Chicago (3-10), at Green Bay (5-8)
Remember the Packers have won out in our scenario, so that means they’ve beaten the Lions in the season finale, and the best Detroit can do is tie Green Bay at 9-8.
First tiebreaker: Head to head. Even Steven.
Second tiebreaker: NFC North record. Both would finish 4-2 in our win-out scenario.
Third tiebreaker: Common games. Detroit’s schedule includes Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, the Giants and Buffalo and the Jets. The Lions are 4-6 in those games and would finish 6-6 in our scenario. The Packers are likewise 4-6 and would move to 6-6.
Fourth tiebreaker: NFC record. The teams would be tied in our scenario where both finish 9-8.
Fifth tiebreaker: Strength of victory. This fluctuates week to week, but in our 9-8 scenario, the Lions would have wins over teams currently holding a combined 47.11% winning percentage, and the Packers would have a combined mark of 49.17%. We’ve already assumed the Lions and Packers go 9-8 in this calculation, but this will waver based on how other teams finish the season. In other words, sure the Packers might have the tiebreaker, but it would be for the best if the Lions took one more loss aside from Green Bay.
What if the Lions, Seahawks and Packers all finish at 9-8?
The first thing that happens here is a tiebreaker to determine one team from each division, so the Packers would theoretically beat out the Lions for that honor (based on the aforementioned strength of victory), then go head-to-head with the Seahawks and possibly win or lose that tiebreaker based on how the season shook out (all mentioned above).
The Packers have edges over the other 5-8 teams, but there’s a small catch
In our scenario, Carolina, Atlanta and Arizona would all have to win out to keep pace with the Packers.
If the Cardinals do run the table, their 6-6 record in NFC games won’t be enough to catch Green Bay.
If Atlanta wins out, the Packers and Falcons would be locked at 7-5 records in the NFC, but Atlanta would be 2-3 in common games and the Packers would be 4-1, so Green Bay gets the edge here.
The Packers also have a healthy advantage over Carolina in the strength-of-victory tiebreaker, but there’s a catch here; if Carolina wins out to finish 9-8, that means the Panthers knocked Tampa Bay from the top spot in the NFC South and won the division over the Bucs (the two teams meet Jan. 1).
On the surface, that’s also no big deal, because the Packers have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buccaneers. But if it came down to a three-way tiebreaker with the Packers, Bucs and Seattle, Tampa Bay would rise above both thanks to record in NFC games.
In other words, the Packers don’t really have to worry about any tiebreakers with Carolina. Either the Panthers fail to match the 9-8 record or they win the South and aren’t in the wild-card conversation. It’s beneficial to Green Bay if either Carolina or Tampa Bay takes one more loss to avoid the heartbreaker scenario.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: With four games left, Green Bay Packers playoff outlook and tiebreakers