Green Bay Packers Take Command over NFC North, Set Eyes on Top Playoff Seed

Green Bay Packers Take Command over NFC North, Set Eyes on Top Playoff Seed

Green Bay Packers' Darnell Savage (26) celebrates his interception with teammates during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

For all intents and purposes, the Green Bay Packers have crowned themselves the kings of the NFC North as winter nears. Now, they’ll march ahead in a battle for conference supremacy with little competition to speak of. 

Sunday’s 41-25 dismantling of the Chicago Bears destroyed the last vestiges of any team within the division capable of usurping Green Bay’s throne.

The 8-3 Packers are the only squad in the ol’ Black and Blue to post a winning record. At 5-6, the Bears are now tied with the Minnesota Vikings, while the Detroit Lions reset earlier in the weekend by dismissing general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia. 

To be fair, Chicago fell apart at the seams in recent weeks. Matt Nagy’s seat is engulfed in flames. Meanwhile, Ryan Pace—or whoever serves as the Chicago Bears general manager next offseason—needs to pull out a piece of scratch paper and scribble down the following directive: “A franchise quarterback no matter what.” 

The Vikings are the closest thing to a true contender to Green Bay’s standing. They already split their two-game series with the Packers. Also, Kirk Cousins and Co. have won four of their last five games. However, a three-game deficit is nearly impossible to overcome with five weeks to play. 

As such, the Packers can shift their gaze to the wider NFL landscape and peer toward the likes of the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, who serve as their top competition from here on out. 

Mike Roemer/Associated Press

The AFC features far more depth overall. Nine teams have winning records compared to the NFC’s six.

So, obstacles in front of Green Bay aren’t as difficult. But being the conference’s representative in the Super Bowl is all that matters, and the Packers have as good a shot as any. 

As of now, Matt LaFleur’s squad is certainly positioned better than its primary adversaries to earn the NFC’s top overall playoff seed. Before looking at the schedules, current setups are problematic in both the Big Easy and the Great Northwest. 

A timetable for Drew Brees’ return from 11 broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung has yet to be determined, per ESPN’s Ed Werder. Sure, the Saints are 2-0 with Taysom Hill behind center, but the multipurpose threat threw for only 78 yards Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Granted, the Saints didn’t need to do much offensively since Denver started a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback, but Hill would have benefited from stacking good performances on top of each other. 

Defense is the name of the game in the Big Easy right now since New Orleans features the league’s top unit after shutting down the depleted Broncos. But let’s not forget Aaron Rodgers threw for three scores with no turnovers during a Week 3 victory over the Brees-led Saints. 

Rodgers is putting together yet another monster campaign with an NFL-leading 33 passing touchdowns compared to only four interceptions. He is always the X-factor. More importantly, he and his head coach/play-caller are clicking. 

“I think the beauty this year is the subtleties of simplicity that I think Matt implemented in the offseason,” Rodgers told reporters after Sunday’s game. “It really allowed me to feel super comfortable with the plan each week.”

When an NFC counterpart doesn’t feature someone like a healthy Brees or Russell Wilson, it’s at an automatic disadvantage. 

Fortunately, the Seahawks have Wilson in their lineup. What they don’t have is a defense capable of slowing Rodgers, running back Aaron Jones or anyone else for that matter.

Morry Gash/Associated Press

As Seattle prepares for a Monday night meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles, its defense is allowing 343.7 passing yards per game. To better understand how truly awful that number is, no other team allows more than 291.5 per contest. 

Wilson and Seattle’s dynamic duo at wide receiver, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, are exceptional, but the Seahawks are a majorly flawed team on the other side of the ball. Green Bay’s defense isn’t great, either. But the Packers are clearly better in that specific area. 

With five games left to play, Green Bay faces only one opponent—the Tennessee Titans in Week 16—with a winning record. Amazingly, the same is true for both New Orleans and Seattle.

Of the three, Seattle has the easiest remaining schedule based on current win-loss records, though a Week 14 meeting with the winless New York Jets skews matters slightly. 

The Packers should face two reeling teams in the Eagles and Lions in back-to-back weeks before sandwiching the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears around the Titans. A 13-3 record is still in play. 

Remaining Regular Season Schedules
Week 13 Eagles Falcons Giants
Week 14 Lions Eagles Jets
Week 15 Panthers Chiefs Washington
Week 16 Titans Vikings Rams
Week 17 Bears Panthers 49ers

Green Bay’s ascension to the top of the NFC is all but assured based on the way the organization is trending and what lies ahead. 

No team should get too far ahead of itself, though. After all, it’s a week-by-week league, especially during a pandemic. With that said, the Packers are well positioned to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LV. 

The AFC side of the ledger will be a gauntlet for whichever battle-weary squad emerges.

Currently, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs are the league’s best teams for entirely different reasons. The Steelers have an opportunistic defense and a veteran quarterback pushing all the right buttons. The Chiefs, on the other hand, feature a spectacular offense with Patrick Mahomes leading the way, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP is limitless in what he can do. 

But the other conference also has the rough-and-tumble Cleveland Browns, Derrick Henry’s Tennesee Titans, two ascending AFC East representatives in the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins and one of the league’s best defenses in the Indianapolis Colts. 

Still, the most important thing that can be said about a team as the postseason nears applies to the Packers: They can beat anyone.

Green Bay has already made its case as the best the NFC has to offer with little resistance. The Packers should now have their eyes set on a much larger crown based on the way the field is set up in their favor.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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