While the AFC playoff field has its six competitors, we won't learn which teams will take the final two NFC spots until Sunday night in Week 17. It's possible the Packers don't even make the playoffs, but they are moving up the betting board on NFC futures odds.
Here Come The Packers
On Nov. 20, Green Bay was beaten 42-24 at Washington. It was the Packers' fourth straight loss and dropped them to 4-6. The playoffs seemed a bit of a pipe dream and there was talk that Coach Mike McCarthy might not return in 2017 despite all his success. However, soon after that game, Aaron Rodgers said the following: "I feel like we can run the table, I really do. The offense is starting to click a little bit more; we've just got to put together a game where we're more consistent from the first snap to the last."
Many in the organization back then compared the season to 2010, when the Packers were 8-6 with two weeks ago and in danger of missing the playoffs. The heat was on McCarthy then, too, But Green Bay won its final two regular-season games to reach the postseason on the way to the franchise's most recent Super Bowl title.
Rodgers has looked prescient thus far as the Packers (9-6) enter Week 17's game at Detroit on a five-game winning streak and have climbed to the +500 fourth-favorites to win the NFC title on NFL odds at BetOnline. This despite the fact the Packers would miss the playoffs if Washington beats the visiting and nothing-to-play for Giants earlier on Sunday and then Green Bay loses in Detroit in the Sunday night finale. The winner of that game takes the NFC North title.
The Packers have no shot at a first-round bye but could get as high as the No. 3 seed with a win. That could lead to a wild-card round rematch with the Redskins, who would take the No. 6 seed with a victory over New York. Should Green Bay win, it's more likely to end up as the fourth seed and would host the Giants next weekend. The Packers did host New York in Week 5 and won 23-16.
Cowboys Remain On Top
Dallas (13-2) has nothing to play for in Week 17 when it visits Philadelphia as the Cowboys have the NFC's top seed locked up and are +125 favorites on NFL picks to win the conference championship. The Cowboys' 13 wins are their most since a 13-3 mark in 2007. They were upset by the Giants 21-17 in the divisional round that season.
It will be interesting to see how much Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott play this week if at all. But apparently we won't see Tony Romo in his first regular-season game action in more than a year. Jerry Jones said he does not want Romo to take a snap in the Week 17 finale against the Eagles because it wouldn't be "worth the risk." The only time Romo had not seen the field in any sort of role was during his rookie season in 2003. A win for Prescott, if he starts, would set the NFL rookie QB record of 14 victories.
Seattle is the +350 second-favorite despite a bad home loss to Arizona in Week 16 that could cost the Seahawks a first-round bye. I wouldn't bet against Seattle at home vs. any opponent, but on the road is a different story. If Seattle wins in San Francisco on Sunday, it would be no worse than the No. 3 seed and would move up to No. 2 if Atlanta is upset at home by New Orleans. Lose to the 49ers and the Seahawks drop to the No. 4 seed and play the Giants at home in the wild-card round.
The Falcons are +400 at BetOnline to win the NFC and would get the No. 2 seed by beating the Saints. Atlanta, the NFC South champion, has by far the NFL's best offense and perhaps the league's best since the 2013 record-setting Denver Broncos. If Tom Brady doesn't win league MVP, then Matt Ryan should.
My prediction as of now is a Packers at Falcons NFC title game -- obviously assuming Green Bay wins Sunday.