Packers: Ranking the toughest potential playoff opponents
Which potential playoff opponents would be the toughest for the Green Bay Packers this season?
We know the Green Bay Packers are playoff-bound.
What we don’t know is whether they’ll host a playoff game or have to travel on the road, whether they’ll get a week off or have to play in the wild-card round. We also don’t know who they’ll be playing.
Along with the Packers, seven teams in the NFC have either clinched a playoff berth or are still in the hunt. Here are my rankings of which of those opponents would present a more favorable matchup for the Packers, and which games would be the toughest.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Either the Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles will host a playoff game. And they might do so with a winning record.
Green Bay could meet Dallas by securing the fifth seed, which is unlikely. The other possibility would be by securing one of the top two seeds and hosting the Cowboys in the divisional round.
Whether at home or on the road, the Packers are the better team as they proved in a 34-24 victory at AT&T Stadium earlier this season.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
The Packers shouldn’t fear the Eagles, either, despite the fact Philadelphia won at Lambeau Field in Week 4.
While the Eagles do have signature wins over the Packers and Buffalo Bills, the other five teams they’ve beaten are a combined 21-49.
The Eagles have the talent to pull off an upset in the playoffs, just as they did earlier in the season against the Packers. But at home or away, Matt LaFleur’s team would be favorites in this matchup.
5. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams can’t finish ahead of the Packers and they need a miracle to even make the playoffs. If they do reach the postseason and play the Packers, it’ll be at Lambeau Field. Just as Green Bay often struggles on the West Coast, Los Angeles heading to Lambeau in January would give the advantage to the Packers.
An offense featuring Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks is certainly talented enough to win games. Over on defense, Aaron Donald is a problem for any offensive line in the NFL.
Let’s not forget the Rams also made the Super Bowl last season. But they haven’t been able to reach that level again this season.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Where this game is played would make a big difference. The Packers held on for victory at Lambeau Field when these teams met earlier in the season, and the cold weather would be another advantage against a dome team.
If it’s a road game at U.S. Bank Stadium, it’d be a much more daunting challenge.
But this would be a tough game no matter where it’s played. You could argue the Vikings have been playing better football than the Packers over the last month despite the fact they’re a game behind in the NFC North. We’ll learn a lot about where these two teams are on Monday night.
3. Seattle Seahawks
Ranking the top three is difficult. The 49ers beat the Saints but the Saints beat the Seahawks and the Seahawks beat the 49ers.
Playing any of them would be difficult. We all know about the challenges of playing at CenturyLink Field, but the Seahawks have been even stronger on the road this season, finishing 7-1 on their travels.
The reason I’ve put Seattle in third is I think this team is slightly less balanced than the top two. The Seahawks are 29th in pass defense. As we saw in their loss to the Rams a couple of weeks ago, they’re not built to play from behind. They are at their best when they’re running the football and controlling the tempo of the game.
2. New Orleans Saints
The difference between the second and third seed could be huge for the Packers. Earn a first-round bye, and any meeting with the Saints would be at Lambeau Field. A trip to the Superdome could get ugly for the Packers.
Michael Thomas is having an All-Pro and record-breaking season. The Saints offense is among the best in football, but they are stronger at home. According to Pro Football Reference, the Saints offense has 21 passing touchdowns at home to nine on the road. They average 8.3 yards per passing play at home and 6.5 on the road.
Another factor that makes the Saints tough to beat is they don’t give the ball away often. New Orleans has a league-low eight giveaways on the year, while the defense has come away with 19 takeaways. The defense has also made 44 sacks, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
It wouldn’t get much tougher than a playoff game against the Saints. If we knew it was at the Superdome, they’d be first in these rankings.
1. San Francisco 49ers
The Packers are familiar with this 49ers team having lost 37-8 to them in November. Unlike the Seahawks and Saints, I don’t think it matters where you play the 49ers, they are just as good. San Francisco is 6-1 on the road this season.
The 49ers defense leads the way, but the offense shouldn’t be overlooked either. San Francisco is second in the NFL for rushing offense and second for scoring offense.
The defense ranks near the top in just about every category.
Total defense? Second. Passing defense? First. Scoring defense? Fourth. Takeaways? Fifth. Sacks? Third.
This team doesn’t have too many weaknesses and will be incredibly tough to beat in the playoffs.