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The Packers (10-3) going into Saturday’s Week 15 game against the Panthers in Green Bay as the projected No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs after the 2020 NFL season. With the Packers beating the Lions in Week 14 while the Saints (10-3) were upset by the Eagles, the Packers hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with three weeks left.

Green Bay already has clinched a second consecutive NFC North title. Neither Chicago (6-7) or Minnesota (6-7) can catch up down four games. A game behind the Packers and the Saints are two teams from the NFC West, the division-leading Rams (9-4) and the second-place Seahawks (9-4).

With that all that in mind, here’s a look at how the Packers will or won’t get the top seed, which comes with home-field advantage and the NFC playoffs’ lone bye.

Packers go 3-0 to finish 13-3

Here is the Packers’ complete remaining schedule: vs. Panthers, vs. Titans and at Bears. Should they win out against that, they would match their 2019 regular-season record. That also would guarantee they keep the No. 1 seed, no matter what the Saints do. The Packers have that edge from winning at New Orleans in Week 3.

Packers go 2-1 to finish 12-4

This would open the door for the Saints to take back No. 1. The Saints, after hosing the Chiefs (12-1) in Week 15, also host the Vikings (6-7) and go to the Panthers (4-9) in Week 17.

The Packers’ most likely loss is to the Titans in Week 16, but they still will be favorites in that game and Saints are underdogs vs. the Chiefs. So the Packers still have a good shot to finish ahead of the Saints in this scenario.

Then the concern for losing No. 1 would be with the Rams or Seahawks, if either of those teams win out while the Packers go 2-1. The Rams host the Jets in Week 15 and host the Cardinals in Week 17. The Seahawks travel to Washington in Week 15 and go to the 49ers in Week 17. Seattle hosts Los Angeles in Week 16.

At 12-4 as NFC West champions, the Rams would have a 10-2 conference record. The Packers could fall to 12-4 by losing to the AFC Titans, which would also give them a 10-2 conference record. The Saints could also get to 12-4 with a 10-2 conference record if their loss is to the Chiefs. The Seahawks can finish at best 9-3 in the conference.

Luckily, there are four common games to help decide No. 1 should the Packers, Saints and Rams end up in a deadlock: 49ers, Eagles, Buccaneers and Bears. The Rams went 3-2 in those games. The Packers are 3-1 in those games going into a Bears rematch. The Saints are 4-1 in those games. The Packers, assuming they beat the Bears again, would separate from the Rams, along with the Saints. Then the Packers would still beat out the Saints for No. 1, with the Rams staying at No. 3.

Packers go 1-2 to finish 11-5

The Packers would be in real danger to drop down to No. 3 here with the Saints likely to go no worse than 2-1 and 12-4  and either the Rams or Seahawks having a good shot to win out for 12-4. There’s a big difference from having a bye and a free ticket to the divisional playoffs instead of immediately contending with the No. 6 wild-card team, likely the Buccaneers, who beat the Packers.

No. 2 doesn’t come with the bye, but the Packers should be comfortable hosting the Cardinals, Vikings or Bears in the wild-card round, knowing another home game vs. the Rams or Seahawks is coming. The Packers also were able to win the Superdome and can do it again if necessary in the NFC championship game.

The Packers can be OK with one loss perhaps even to keep No. 1. Two losses, however, would be disastrous in making the path to Super Bowl 55 considerably more difficult.

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December 19, 2020
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