Home-Field Advantage Within Packers’ Grasp

Bill Huber

The Green Bay Packers gave away a game in the loaded NFC standings by laying an egg last week at the Chargers. The Packers got that game back on Sunday by virtue of their 24-16 victory over Carolina and New Orleans’ stunning home loss to Atlanta.

With that, the Packers have moved into the No. 2 spot in the NFC – meaning they are the front-runners for a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round. Getting the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is well within their grasp based on the final schedules and San Francisco's loss to Seattle on Monday.

There’s a lot on the line when the Packers return from their bye, which is why quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants his teammates to do the right things during their vacation.

“We are pretty excited about the opportunity being older players and just understanding how special this feels and it doesn’t happen like this all the time,” Rodgers said in sharing a conversation he had with tight end Jimmy Graham. “We’ve both been through rough seasons over the years, where you’re just not quite in the mix. This feels different. Hopefully those guys understand how important the opportunity is and not do anything stupid that’s going to jeopardize their role in that opportunity.”

Here are the NFC standings:

1. San Francisco (8-1). The 49ers will host the Packers in two weeks. Before Monday's loss to Seattle, the 49ers had played one of the weakest schedules in the league, with their opponents having a combined .349 winning percentage. That challenge is much stiffer for the second half of the season: vs. Arizona (3-6-1), vs. Green Bay (8-2), at Baltimore (7-2), at New Orleans (7-2), vs. Atlanta (2-7), vs. the Rams (5-4), at Seattle (8-2). That’s six opponents with a winning record and a combined mark of 40-25-1 (.614 winning percentage).

2. Green Bay (8-2). The Packers have six games remaining, with four of those against teams with losing records: at San Francisco (8-1), at the Giants (2-8), vs. Washington (1-8), vs. Chicago (4-5), at Minnesota (7-3) and at Detroit (3-5-1). That’s a combined 25-29-1 record or .464 winning percentage. The Packers’ wins have come against teams with a .520 winning percentage, the second-highest among all teams with winning records, so they are battle tested.

3. New Orleans (7-2). The Saints, who had won six in a row and were coming off their bye, inexplicably lost at home to the Falcons, who had lost six in a row. Their remaining schedule: at Tampa Bay (3-6), vs. Carolina (5-4), at Atlanta (2-7), vs. San Francisco (8-1), vs. Indianapolis (5-4), at Tennessee (5-5) and at Carolina (5-4). That’s a combined 33-31 (.516).

4. Dallas (5-4). The Cowboys and Eagles are tied for the NFC East lead, with Dallas winning Round 1 in the rivalry. The Cowboys’ wins have come against teams with a .255 winning percentage; four of their final seven games are against teams with winning records.

5. Seattle (8-2). Before beating the 49ers, the Seahawks’ wins had come against teams with a .336 winning percentage. Of their final six games, five are against teams with winning records: bye, at Philadelphia (5-4), vs. Minnesota (7-2), at the Rams (5-4), at Carolina (5-4), vs. Arizona (3-6-1) and vs. San Francisco (8-1). That’s a combined 33-21-1 record for a resounding .609 winning percentage.

6. Minnesota (7-3). The Vikings’ wins have come against teams with a .367 winning percentage. Taken in totality, their final seven weeks will be much more challenging: vs. Denver (3-6), bye, at Seattle (8-2), vs. Detroit (3-5-1), at the Chargers (4-6), vs. Green Bay (8-2) and vs. Chicago (4-5). That’s a combined record of 30-26-1 (.535). However, only two of those teams have winning records.

7. Los Angeles Rams (5-4). In Weeks 14 through 16, the Rams are home against Seattle and at Dallas and San Francisco.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (5-4). The Eagles will be off this coming week before home games against New England and Seattle. They host Dallas in Week 16.

9. Carolina (5-4). The Panthers’ final three games are against teams with winning records: vs. Seattle, at Indianapolis and vs. New Orleans.