The Green Bay Packers entered the regular season finale with a chance to win their fifth consecutive NFC North Championship. All that stood in their way were the Minnesota Vikings; a team they dominated earlier this season. Unfortunately the Packers are nowhere near as good as those division-winning squads, a fact painfully on display during Sunday night’s 20-13 loss.
Packers fans are accustomed to seeing Aaron Rodgers march the team up and down the field at will, but this season was different. Their usually dynamic offense entered the game ranked #24 in yards per game and could not move the ball with any consistency. This was on display Sunday night when they managed only three points through the first three quarters. In fact, the Packers failed to score more than 16 points at home versus divisional opponents (all losses), which is a stark contrast to last season when they averaged 42.3 points in such games.
There is not much more to be said at this point. The Packers missed Jordy Nelson. DaVante Adams struggled mightily in his second season. Eddie Lacy was mostly ineffective. And of course, Aaron Rodgers looked mortal. As Denny Green once said, “they are who we thought they were.” All of this led to a Week 17 loss that was not unexpected. That said, the irony of losing the division is that it might actually benefit the Packers.
The Vikings won bragging rights by winning the division, but their tangible spoils are a Wild Card playoff game versus the scorching hot Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile the Packers will travel to the District of Columbia to play the Washington Football Team, who finished the season 9-7. Though the Packers offensive woes make them vulnerable to every team in the NFL, they’re better off playing somewhat better than so-so team than a divisional foe for the third time.
The odds of the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl are slim, but anything is possible in the NFL. Let’s not forget that their defense is actually very good. If the “defense wins championships” adage is correct, Green Bay has a puncher’s change to make a run. Furthermore, favorable match-ups are an overlooked ingredient of success and – relatively speaking – Washington is arguably the weakest playoff team in the NFC (it’s either them or the Packers).
All Green Bay must do to make the Super Bowl is play like a different team for three weeks. Stranger things have happened.