The Green Bay Packers playoff hopes are expected to officially end tonight when the Atlanta Falcons meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Monday night football action. If the Falcons win, the Packers are out. That would mean the Packers would play the final two games of the season, starting with a home game against Minnesota on Saturday, without anything to play for.
Aaron Rodgers returned to the Packers lineup on Sunday and while he threw three touchdown passes, he also tossed three interceptions in a 31-24 loss to the Panthers.
The Packers needed Rodgers to play flawless football in his return from a broken collarbone. But Rodgers was clearly rusty, completing 26 of 45 for 290 yards. It was Rodgers first three interception game since 2009 and just the fourth of his career.
“Obviously, I saw it going a little differently,” Rodgers said. “But I’m proud of our guys for the way they played the last few weeks. Today, disappointed. I didn’t play very well. Obviously, I hold myself to a high standard. I expected to play well. It’s a good defense but I made too many mistakes. Even still, we had a chance there at the end to come back and tie it.”
If the Packers are eliminated following tonight’s MNF game, the Packers will have to decide if it’s worth playing Rodgers for the final two games of the season. They were willing to take the risk of playing Rodgers when the playoffs were on the line, but is it worth it to take further risk with the Packers out of the playoff picture?
For the Packers (7-7) to remain alive, they need Atlanta to lose tonight. To stay in the playoff picture, the Falcons would have to lose all three of their remaining games (at New Orleans, home vs. Carolina). They would also need to see Seattle lose one of its last two games (at Dallas and home against Arizona). Dallas would have to lose one of its last two games (home vs. Seattle and at Philadelphia).
Tampa Bay knocking off Atlanta would be a huge upset, so the Packers fate will likely be sealed tonight. And if the Packers get beyond tonight, they will also have to win out (home against Minnesota and at Detroit). The Vikings clinched the NFC North by beating Cincinnati on Sunday, but they also have more to play for as they battle for home field throughout the playoffs, or at the very least, a home playoff game.
While Rodgers would play Saturday if the Packers have something to play for, the Packers beating the Vikings might be a stretch regardless. The Packers defense struggled against the Panthers, just like they have for most of the season.
For now, the Packers will become Tampa Bay fans, hoping the Bucs can pull off a home upset against Atlanta. If that happens, then the Packers will worry about their defense and the upcoming game against the Vikings on Tuesday.