Monday, December 13, 2010

Can the Packers still make the playoffs?

Probably not, but let’s take a look at what needs to shake out, what you need to root for, etc.

First and foremost, you absolutely want the Vikings to beat the Giants tonight. Doing so would create a 3-way tie for the last wild card spot between GB, TB, and the Giants. Of those teams, the Packers have the worst Conference record but I doubt that will end up mattering for a few reasons:

1. The Packers still play against the Giants, so that tiebreaker will end up being head to head.

2. To make the playoffs I figure the Packers can at maximum lose one more game (and that’s a stretch) and that game would have to be an out of division game to the Patriots.

3. Every remaining Bucs game is against the NFC. The Bucs are 6-3 and the Packers are 6-4. I believe the Pack will have to win all of their remaining conference games to make the playoffs (8-4) and any Bucs loss will put them in a tie for that tiebreaker. If the Bucs can win out, they will win the tiebreaker.

The Packers have 2 possible ways to get into the playoffs.

1.Catch the Bears.

2.Win the Wild Card.

1. Catch the Bears

The Bears sit a game up on the Packers with a head-to-head win in their possession. In order to catch the Bears it is extremely likely that the Packers will have to win the head to head matchup, and in the event that they end up in a tie, the Bears will still probably win the tiebreaker. Why? Division record. The Packers currently sit at 3-2 within the division with 1 game left (against the Bears). The Bears are 4-0 with 2 games left (next week at Minnesota if they can fix their stadium in time, and against the Packers). If the Bears beat Minnesota next week they effectively lock up the tiebreaker. This means that to win the division, the Packers will have to win one more game than the Bears, and if the Bears beat Minnesota, that would meant the Packers would have to, at minimum, go 11-5.

In short, if the Bears win at Minnesota next week, and the Packers lose in Foxboro next week (like everyone has for the last 20 consecutive games or so), the Bears will wrap up the division. That is exceedingly likely to happen.

If the Bears lose next week things become much more plausible. If you assume an equally (at least) plausible GB loss to New England, that would put the Bears at 9-5 and the Packers at 8-6 with 2 games to play. In this scenario a Packer win against Chicago would put the teams even in the first 2 tiebreakers moving us to common games. The Packers and Bears have 12 games in common, and each team is currently 7-3 in those games with 2 yet to play. For the Bears, those games are Minnesota and the NYJ. For the Pack it’s New England and the Giants. If you will recall, to even make this scenario plausible we had to assume a Bear loss to Minnesota, and if the Packers somehow did manage to force a tie in this scenario, they probably win with either the common opponents tiebreaker or the Conference Record tiebreaker. Of course beating the Giants is no easy task and that game can also make this whole thing moot.

If the Vikings can somehow pull their game out next week, we’ll reexamine further, but if the Bears win it’s basically over.

2. The Wild Card.

This whole analysis is probably academic for one simple reason. The Packers, a team that just lost to the Detroit Lions and did not look good doing it, have an extremely difficult final three games and they have to win a high percentage of those games, and possibly all of them.

The Saints basically have the 1st Wild Card slot locked up, and should they happen to catch Atlanta, then Atlanta would similarly have it locked up. There are 4 teams in play for the final Wild Card spot; whoever does not win the NFC East (Eagles of Giants), the Bucs, and the Packers. The Giants have yet to play this week @Minnesota/Detroit, and sit ½ game up at 8-4. After the game tonight, they will finish up at home against Philly, and then on the road at GB and @Washington. Green Bay will almost certainly need to win the head-to-head matchup with the Giants to have any chance at the wild card both because they need the win, and probably, the tiebreaker.

Tampa Bay escaped this weekend on a missed extra point by the Redskins. They have a relatively easy schedule at home against Detroit, at home against Seattle, and @ New Orleans. It is exceedingly likely that New Orleans will have their spot locked up in week 17 and give Tampa a healthy dose of Chase Daniels.

One thing the Packers do have going for them is their win over the Eagles. Should the Giants beat Minnesota tonight and Philly next week, they will put the Eagles into the Wild Card mix, where the Packers already own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Packers appear to have the most difficult road to the playoffs of these four teams. One strange thing: Minnesota will play a prominent role no matter what. They play the Giants tonight, the Bears next week, and the Eagles in week 16. The Packers are in the strange position of hoping for a 3-game Viking winning streak to end the season.

Without doing any math of any kind, I’d put the Packers’ odds of making the playoffs at something around 25%. Probably a bit worse. Still, stranger things have happened.


E.S.K. said...


Jon said...

I think your division chances are better than that. I don't think the Bears are that good, Minny should be 40-50% at least to beat them at home. As you said, if that happens you can win your 2 home games and probably get it. Just use NFL playoff predictor thingee on ESPN if youre not sure about tiebreaks in some scenarios.

TD said...

Minny 40-50% to beat the Bears? You obviously wrote that before watching Tavarious Jackson last night, right?

Jon said...

I did, I'll lower that a little bit but still think they have a pretty good chance. Giants are awesome and the Bears are kinda crappy. Plus Vikes will be at home vs Bears (i assume they can fix the stadium by then). Plus Harvin will probably be back. Plus, did i mention the Bears aren't very good?

E.S.K. said...

The Giants are awesome?

Jon said...

Well I'm a Giants fan. But if you want to use a more PC term, the Giants are a very good football team. As are the Packers (with Rodgers). As are not the Bears.

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