1) Will the Packers make the playoffs?
The Packers will advance if they win out in home games against NFC North foes Minnesota and Detroit while Washington loses at least once or the Giants lose twice. While possible, here’s the issue for Green Bay:
Washington finishes at home against Cleveland and Dallas; the Browns already have been eliminated from playoff contention and might have their bags packed for the offseason, while the Cowboys might rest their regulars in Week 18 if the team has been eliminated from contention for the top seed in the NFC, something that could happen this coming weekend if the Eagles defeat the visiting Saints.
The Giants close the season against the visiting Colts, one of the league’s worst teams, then travel to Philadelphia, which might sit some of its regulars if it has locked up the NFC’s top seed.
For now, the Packers need to focus on what they can control, and Rodgers has to like the idea of two teams that play their home games in domes coming to the Frozen Tundra to finish the regular season. The Packers beat the Vikings 37-10 last season in Week 17 in Green Bay, when the temperature was 11 degrees at kickoff, and they’ve won three in a row at home against the Lions, the last two by 18 and 21 points, respectively.
But for both of those games to matter in the playoff picture, the Packers need help from others and I don’t think they’re going to get it.
2) Is the Vikings’ 11-0 record in one-score games a positive or a looming problem?
Minnesota has been as comfortable living life on the edge as any team, which was apparent Saturday against the Giants when they overcame third-and-9 and third-and-11 situations in the final two minutes to drive for the decisive field goal as time expired.
Unspoken is that the comebacks have been necessary at times because of the Vikings’ inability to close out games. For instance, they were ahead by eight points with three minutes to play Saturday, but allowed the Giants to drive 75 yards in 59 seconds and convert the two-point attempt to tie the game. That’s concerning, and something that’s likely to catch up to them in the playoffs.
3) Will Patrick Mahomes have to play a postseason game as a member of a visiting team for the first time in his career?
Mahomes has 11 career playoff starts. Nine have been in Arrowhead Stadium, the two others in the Super Bowl. If the season ended today, Buffalo would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Here’s the thing: I don’t expect the Bills to hold onto the top spot. I expect the Chiefs to earn it.
They’re currently tied with Buffalo at 12-3 for the conference’s best record, but the Bills own the tiebreaker based on a head-to-head victory on Oct. 16. That said, look for the Bills to lose on Jan. 2 at Cincinnati, thereby opening the door for the Chiefs to garner the top seed with wins over the Broncos at home and the Raiders on the road.