Contrary to the fail last year, the Packers would benefit from a playoff bye
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior analyst
~Blame the Giants.
Last year, as well as the 2007 season playoffs, the Packers blew their Lambeau advantage as the road to the Super Bowl went through Green Bay, leaving hundreds of thousands of cheeseheads with broken hearts as the Giants battered the Packers.
It has been said by many that the Packers would be better off playing on Wildcard weekend and not earning an automatic bye into the NFC semifinal round. They point to the rust the Packers showed last year in the meltdown loss to the Giants, following the bye the Packers had earned.
They also point out the year before in which the Packers got on a roll, winning a Wildcard game in Philadelphia before taking the show to Atlanta and then Chicago on their way to winning Super Bowl XLV. The Giants won the extra game last year as well, just like they did in the 2007 season.
But the fact is, earning a bye is a good thing for two main reasons.
Number one, half of the teams who have to play Wildcard games lose, every time. Of the eight teams who play the Wildcard round, four of them go home for the year after that week. Earning a bye assures the Packers of not being one of those four teams who go home after Wildcard weekend.
Number two, not playing a game that weekend means the Packers shouldn’t lose another handful of players to injury, as seems to happen every game they play.
In 2007, Brett Favre basically gave away that game to the Giants. The OL blocked well, but Favre was frozen, terrible.
Last year, the rust that we saw from Rodgers was more due to him also being given week 17 off than it was they bye week. It had been three weeks since he last played, and his timing was off just a bit. A “bit” makes a big difference as we saw.
Also, it would be naive to fail to mention the incident with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s kid. That whole week leading up to the Giants game had a big impact on the psyche, intensity of the team. First the kid was missing, then found dead in the river, and ultimately there was the funeral for the kid on Friday right before the game that weekend. This kid was the same age as many of the players, and many had never been to a funeral before.
Seeing a kid their age dead, being buried, certainly put the “game” of football in perspective, and selfish or not, that’s not a good thing for a football team.
Looking at the standings now, it appears two things are the tipping points. Number one, the Packers will have to win at Chicago next week, December 16th. The winner of that game, most likely, will win the NFC North.
If the Packers win that game, and win the other three they play (Detroit, Tennessee, at Minnesota), and they will be touchdown-favorites in each of the three, means the Packers will finish 12-4. At worst, that will be the #3 seed.
That would mean playing a Wildcard game, at Lambeau Field, against the last Wildcard team. That could be Chicago, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington, or perhaps Dallas.
However, the San Francisco 49ers would have to go 4-0 these last four games, or else the Packers would beat them out and earn the #2 seed, which is the bye into the NFC semifinals.
Looking at the Niners schedule, they have two tough road games left. They play at New England and at Seattle, two very tough places to win. The Packers trail the Niners by a half game, so there won’t be a tie. That’s good because the Niners own the tiebreaker on the Packers thanks to the week one win they had at Lambeau Field.
If they lose both of those road games, the Packers could afford a stumble against one of the three underdogs, as long as they beat the Bears.
You want a bye any time you can in the post-season.
With that being said, not only are you rooting for the Packers these final four weeks, you also are rooting against the 49ers, and that means becoming Patriots and Seahawks fans for a weekend.