Here’s Packers’ Path to Home-Field Advantage

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Minnesota’s loss at Seattle on Monday night, the door is wide open for the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North.

Now, how do the Packers get a first-round bye or even home-field advantage?

As it stands with four games to go, New Orleans (10-2) is No. 1 in the NFC, Seattle (10-2) is No. 2, Green Bay (9-3) is No. 3 and San Francisco (10-2) is lurking at No. 5.

Here are the remaining schedules for the top contenders:

New Orleans: vs. San Francisco (10-2), vs. Indianapolis (6-6), at Tennessee (7-5), at Carolina (5-7).

Seattle: at L.A. Rams (7-5), at Carolina (5-7), vs. Arizona (3-9), vs. San Francisco (10-2).

Green Bay: vs. Washington (3-9), vs. Chicago (6-6), at Minnesota (8-4), at Detroit (3-8-1).

San Francisco: at New Orleans (10-2), vs. Atlanta (3-9), vs. L.A. Rams (7-5), at Seattle (10-2).

Here’s a realistic view of how the Packers can get at least a first-round bye.

Week 14: San Francisco goes into New Orleans and upsets the Saints. That would push the Saints to 10-3 and, critically, hand them a third conference loss. Los Angeles beats Seattle. The Rams are fighting for their playoff lives and the Seahawks are coming off a huge win on a Monday night so could be a bit vulnerable.

Week 15: None.

Week 16: Green Bay beats Minnesota. With three losses, the Packers have to run the table – including a win at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Packers are 0-3 and have scored only 41 points.

Week 17: Seattle beats San Francisco to win the NFC West.

This would be the NFC standings:

New Orleans: 13-3 overall and 9-3 in the NFC.

Seattle: 13-3 overall and 10-2 in the NFC.

Green Bay: 13-3 overall and 10-2 in the NFC.

San Francisco: 13-3 overall but, having been swept by Seattle, would be a wild card.

What does it mean? In a three-team tiebreaker between the Saints, Seahawks and Packers, the tiebreaker would be conference record. The Saints, with three losses, would be eliminated and banished to the No. 3 seed. The next tiebreaker, which would determine the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, is common opponents. Under this scenario, Seattle would go 5-0 vs. San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Carolina while Green Bay would be 3-2. So, it would be Seattle as No. 1 and Green Bay as No. 2.

Assuming again they run the table, how can the Packers get the No. 1 seed?

This would require a couple of somewhat unlikely results but would be the most realistic path.

Week 14: New Orleans wins at home against San Francisco and Los Angeles wins at home against Seattle. That would give the 49ers and Seahawks three losses apiece.

Week 16: Tennessee wins at home against New Orleans. This game won’t be a layup for the Saints. The Titans have won five of six since replacing Marcus Mariota with Ryan Tannehill. The Rams go into San Francisco and upset the 49ers. Those results would give the Saints a third loss and the 49ers a fourth loss.

Week 17: Carolina wins at home against New Orleans, which would give the Saints a fourth loss. San Francisco wins at Seattle, which would give the Seahawks a fourth loss.

This would be the NFC standings:

Green Bay: 13-3 overall (10-2 vs. NFC).

New Orleans: 12-4 (9-3 vs. NFC).

Seattle: 12-4 (9-3 vs. NFC).

San Francisco: 12-4 (9-3 vs. NFC).

To get the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage, the Packers in this scenario would need some somewhat-unlikely help from Tennessee and Carolina against New Orleans, the Rams against San Francisco and the Rams against Seattle and San Francisco. Without that help, Green Bay would lose tiebreakers against all three of those teams. San Francisco, obviously, has the head-to-head tiebreaker. The next tiebreaker is conference record, which would be deadlocked. After that, it’s common opponents. In those, New Orleans would be 5-0 against Dallas, Chicago, Carolina and San Francisco compared to 4-1 for Green Bay. Seattle would be 5-0 vs. San Francisco, Philadelphia Minnesota and Carolina compared to 3-2 for Green Bay. In both cases, the Packers’ loss to the 49ers would be the difference.