Packers’ odds go up with help from others


By Chris Havel

Special to EVENT USA

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers return from their Week 14 bye with an opportunity to build upon their recent, modest success while praying for divine intervention from the football gods.

The Packers’ odds to reach the playoffs nudged up to six percent with their 28-19 win over the Bears last week. If Green Bay wins its final four games it has a 61-percent chance to make the playoffs. That’s the same odds as Giannis hitting a free throw, so there’s a chance.

The Packers (5-8) host the Rams (4-9) next Monday night.

After that they play the Dolphins on Christmas Day at Hard Rock Stadium, where Miami (8-5) is 5-1 this season. Then it’s a pair of home games against the Vikings (10-3) and Lions (6-7) to close out.

Packers’ receiver Allen Lazard and his teammates are clinging to hope.

“We haven’t given up,” Lazard said. “This whole year hasn’t gone our way. A lot of our losses have been one-possession games, for the most part. (It’s) a play here, a play there, a turnover there or not being able to make a turnover in some certain situations. That’s just kind of been the thing that’s been holding us back, so to speak.”

The Packers’ remaining opponents are a combined 29-23 (.558), but they play them in December and January, which historically has been “go time” for Green Bay under coach Matt LaFleur.

The Packers are an amazing 15-1 in December/January games since LaFleur took the helm in 2019. That is reflective of Super Bowl-caliber teams that proceeded to fall short in the postseason. That isn’t this.

Remember, the Packers were 10-1 in October games under LaFleur. Then they went a dreadful 1-4 to trigger the landslide.
Nevertheless, the Packers feel like they have a puncher’s chance.

The offense is averaging a Packers-like 27 points in its last four games.

Rookie receiver Christian Watson’s mercurial rise is a major reason.

Watson has eight touchdowns in four games, which has allowed the Packers to run the football more effectively. In addition, the offensive line has settled down a bit with Zach Tom pinch-hitting for David Bakhtiari at left tackle while Yosh Nijman – who just may be the Packers’ most underrated player – handling right tackle.

In turn, the defense hasn’t resembled a sieve lately.

When the Packers reduce or eliminate pre-snap penalties, assignment errors and turnovers they can compete with anyone. When they don’t they might as well dress in Texans’ uniforms.

“I told the guys … we’ve played good enough to beat anybody in the league, and at times played poor enough to lose to just about anybody,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Our highs have been pretty solid.”

Matt Minor, a decades-long Packers fan in Green Bay, was kind enough to lay out his favorite team’s chances to make the playoffs. With great positivity, perspective and an aptitude for numbers, Minor writes:

“After sweeping the Rams, Dolphins, Vikings and Lions the Packers will finish 9-8, 4-2 in the NFC North and 7-5 in the NFC. Detroit can also finish 9-8, 4-2 and 7-5, but in this scenario the Packers would have a 5-5 versus 4-6 edge over the Lions based on common opponents, so the Packers win that tiebreaker.

“The Seahawks (7-6) must win three of four to get to 10-7. That is not going to happen with games against the 49ers, Chiefs, Jets and Rams. The best Seattle could do is 6-6 in the NFC. The Packers would be 7-5 and win the tiebreaker with Seattle.

“The Giants (7-5-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) play each other so one will fall to six losses. The Giants’ other games are against the Vikings (10-3), the Colts (4-8-1) and the Eagles (12-1).

“In conclusion, the Packers don’t control their destiny, but if they rise to the occasion they should make the playoffs at 9-8 as the No. 6 seed.”

Clearly, as Minor notes, the Packers must take care of business or they’ll miss the playoffs regardless of any breaks that come their way.

The Packers trail the No. 7 seeded Giants by 2 ½ games with four to play. It would be a tall mountain to climb if this were baseball and the Packers had Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff alternating starts.

Nevertheless, it’s the hand the Packers essentially have dealt themselves. Packers’ fans better hope Rodgers is better throwing a football with his fingers crossed than he is with a broken thumb.

Speaking of thumbs, here is a thumbnail sketch of the NFC’s sixth through ninth seeds entering Week 15:

** No. 6 – Washington (7-5-1)

Schedule: New York Giants, at San Francisco, Cleveland, Dallas

Comment: The Commanders could KO the Giants this week, but easily could drop its final three games. The 49ers are in a dogfight of their own, the Browns are dangerous with Deshaun Watson, and the Cowboys need to keep winning to remain the top wild card.

** No. 7 – New York Giants (7-5-1)

Schedule: at Washington, at Minnesota, Indianapolis, at Philadelphia

Comment: The Giants aren’t upsetting the Commanders in Washington, and the Vikings are much better at home than on the road (ask anyone at Ford Field that witnessed the Lions’ 34-23 rout Sunday).

** No. 8 – Seattle (7-6)

Schedule: San Francisco, at Kansas City, N.Y. Jets, L.A. Rams

Comment: The Seahawks’ 30-24 loss to Carolina leaves Seattle in a lurch with the 49ers and Chiefs beckoning. The Seahawks have lost three of four and I don’t see them halting the slide.

** No. 9 – Detroit (6-7)

Schedule: at N.Y. Jets, at Carolina, Chicago, at Green Bay

Comment: The notion that the Lions-Packers game Jan. 8 could be for the NFC’s final wild-card spot is enough to give goosebumps. After all that has gone wrong this season, it would be amazing to see Packers’ fans scoreboard watching and cheering for a win over the Lions on a frosty January afternoon at Lambeau Field.