A narrow win over the Carolina Panthers has put the Green Bay Packers one step closer to clinching the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC, but there are still a few outcomes that could help in their pursuit during Sunday’s slate of Week 15 games.
The Packers (11-3) continue to control their own destiny as the conference’s top seed following Saturday night’s 24-16 win, holding a half-game advantage over the New Orleans Saints (10-3) along with the head-to-head tiebreaker. No matter what, two straight wins over Tennessee and Chicago will earn them a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
A little cushion can never hurt, though, right?
Here’s a look at which Week 15 games matter most for the Packers’ pursuit of the No. 1 seed heading into Sunday and an updated look at which opponents Green Bay could draw in its first game of the 2020-21 postseason:
*Note: All data and percentages included here are courtesy of Playoff Status.
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Saints vs. Chiefs Outcome a Major Decider
The second-most important game this week for the Packers will go down at 3:25 p.m. CT Sunday when the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) take on the Saints inside the Superdome. A Saints wins would keep the fire hot beneath the Packers, but a victory for Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champions would present some interesting possibilities for the next two weeks.
For instance, if the Packers defeat the Titans in Week 16 and clinch the No. 1 seed with a full game left on the schedule, they would have little reason not to rest Aaron Rodgers or their other starters. That scenario would also mean the NFL starting debut of either backup Tim Boyle or 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love; though, Boyle is the more likely choice.
The Saints aren’t the only team for Packers fans to root against on Sunday. A loss for either the Los Angeles Rams (against the New York Jets at 3:05 p.m. CT) or the Seattle Seahawks (against the Washington Football Team at noon) would also help their cause, as one of the two will win the NFC West and contend for a top-three seed.
Who Could Packers Face in Playoff Opener?
There are a variety of opponents who could end up facing the Packers in the first round of the playoffs next month, but the scenarios are starting to become a little more straightforward with the regular season winding down and the Packers likely to finish either No. 1 or No. 2.
If the Packers finish as the No. 1 seed, they will not find out who they are hosting in the NFC divisional round until the second weekend in January based on the result of the wild-card game between the No. 4 seed and No. 5 seed. The fourth-seeded team will be the winner of the NFC South, so probably either Washington (6-7) or the New York Giants (5-8), while the leading contenders for the fifth seed are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) and whichever side loses the West between the Rams (9-4) and Seahawks (9-4).
If the Packers end up falling to the No. 2, however, they will be forced to play in the first round against the last NFC team to make the cut, which could end up being one of their NFC North rivals. The Minnesota Vikings (6-7) and Chicago Bears (6-7) each remain in the hunt and will be facing each other on Sunday afternoon. The current No. 7 is the Arizona Cardinals (7-6).