GREEN BAY – No matter what the New Orleans Saints do Monday night when they host the Indianapolis Colts, they will trail the Green Bay Packers for the second seed in the NFC playoffs with two weeks remaining.
That’s the beneficial position the Packers find themselves in with just two games remaining. The Packers did more than just clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 with their 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and the Los Angeles Rams’ subsequent loss in Dallas: If the Packers win their next two games, nobody can catch them for the second seed, which would net a first-round bye.
But the Packers could set their sights a little higher. San Francisco’s surprising loss to Atlanta on Sunday might have cracked open the door for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, though the Packers still need a lot of help.
Here’s a look at the Packers’ playoff possibilities with two games left:
No. 1 seed
Perks: Home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
How it happens: Packers win out at Minnesota and Detroit, Seattle (11-3) loses at home to Arizona in Week 16, San Francisco (11-3) loses at Seattle in Week 17. Or Packers win out, San Francisco loses to home to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16, and Seattle loses to San Francisco in Week 17. Either way, the Packers need to win the next two weeks, and they need Seattle and San Francisco to lose once more. Because if they finish with identical records, the Packers would lose a tiebreaker to the Seahawks and 49ers. They lose the tiebreaker to the Seahawks because of win percentage against common opponents. The Packers and Seahawks have played four common opponents this season: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Carolina. The Seahawks beat all four of those teams, with their Week 17 home game against the 49ers looming. The Packers are 2-2. So even if the Seahawks lose to the 49ers, their 4-1 record against common opponents would prevail if both are 13-3. With the 49ers, it’s much simpler: Their Week 12 trouncing of the Packers in San Francisco gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker.
No. 2 seed
Perks: First-round bye, home-field advantage for divisional-round game.
How it happens: Packers win out. That’s all they need to do. It might be challenging, given their trip this week to Minnesota. If the Packers lose this week but win next week, they would need the Saints to lose once more. In this scenario, the Packers’ preference would be the Saints losing Week 17 at Carolina, which would ensure Green Bay finishes with the better conference record, thus securing the second seed. If the Saints lose to an AFC team (the Colts or Tennessee Titans) but beat Carolina, the Packers and Saints would have identical records in conference (9-3) and against common opponents (4-1). The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, which the Saints lead (.503 to .457), but that could change. Bottom line, the simplest path to a bye is the Packers winning their next two games.
No. 3 seed
Perks: Home-field advantage in wild-card round, play the sixth seed.
How it happens: Packers win one more game. Could be next Monday night against the Vikings. Could be the regular-season finale at the Lions. Just one more victory will clinch the NFC North title, and with it at least one home game in the playoffs. (They also could clinch if Minnesota loses its Week 17 home game against Chicago.) That’s because closing the season 1-1 would give the Packers a 5-1 division record, which would trump Minnesota’s two division losses.
No. 4 seed
Perks: Home-field advantage for wild-card game.
How it happens: It doesn’t. If the Packers win the NFC North, they will finish ahead of the NFC East champ, whether it’s Dallas or Philadelphia.
No. 5 seed
Perks: Playing the fourth seed in the wild-card game, instead of the third.
How it happens: This can’t happen, either. If the Packers go 1-1 to close the season, they’re the three seed. If they lose both, they’re the six. Even if Seattle or San Francisco lose both games to close their season, which is unlikely, the Packers lose tiebreakers to both.
No. 6 seed
Perks: Being in the playoffs.
How it happens: Packers lose their last two games, Vikings win their last two games, Seattle and San Francisco finish with identical records as Green Bay. If this happens, the Packers lose the NFC North title to the Vikings. In this scenario, the Vikings would finish 12-4, and the Packers would be 11-5.