Playoff Picture: Sketching out the Road to a Berth for the Green Bay Packers

Trent Stutzman@@trentstutzmanContributor IIINovember 15, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04:  James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers runs between Adrian Wilson #24 and Paris Lenon #51 of the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on November 4, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 31-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Despite a 2-3 start to the 2012 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers are very much alive in the NFC playoff race, thanks to a four-game winning streak.

But securing a spot in the postseason certainly won’t be easy. Of their final seven games, five are divisional matchups, one is against the defending champion New York Giants and only three are at home.

On top of that, Green Bay is fighting significant injury woes. Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Nick Perry and Bryan Bulaga all are already on injured reserve, and Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson will all miss at least one more game and likely more.

That will be Green Bay’s first step to making the playoffs—staying healthy. Yeah, the 2010 Packers overcame a bevy of injuries to win Super Bowl XLV, but that doesn’t mean it can happen again.

Football is such a game of teamwork, continuity and chemistry. It’s incredibly hard to play at a high level when lineups are constantly changing.

It will also be up to the youngsters to keep the “next man up” concept going strong for the Packers. That is how they were able to overcome all the injuries in 2010. The substitutes played incredibly well, which will definitely be needed again if this injury rate keeps up.

Besides that, the only real thing that matters is winning divisional games. The NFC North is the best division in the NFL and incredibly tight.

If it wasn’t for the bogus "Inaccurate Reception" on Sept. 24, Green Bay would be in first place by way of tiebreaker. But instead, if they lose to the Lions this Sunday, the Packers will be only one game ahead of Detroit for last place.

Needless to say, each divisional game could greatly alter the way the postseason shapes up.

In their two remaining non-divisional games, the Packers play the Giants and the Tennessee Titans. Surely, they should beat Tennessee, but not necessarily New York. Let’s say, at worst, Green Bay splits those two, putting the overall record at 7-4 besides the five divisional matchups.

That means they must go 3-2 in those games to earn a solid chance of getting the No. 6 seed (at 10-6 with a 4-2 divisional record) or 4-1 to essentially lock up either the division or the Wild Card (11-5, 5-1).

In order to ensure such a record is wrapped up, here is what Green Bay must do against each foe.

For Detroit, they’ve just got to lock up Calvin Johnson. The Lions are ranked No. 1 in passing yards per game, and most of that is thanks to Megatron.

Both of these games will likely be shootouts. Last year, the two teams combined for 1,540 passing yards in the two games they faced each other, an average of 385 per team per game.

Taking Johnson out of the equation would deplete Detroit of a lot of ammunition.

Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers must simply stick true to their fundamentals. They’re much better at tackling this year than last, which has resulted in the league’s 11th-best run defense.

There’s almost no stopping Adrian Peterson these days, but as long as the Packers stay fundamentally sound, they can somewhat limit his effectiveness. As long as they do that, they should easily win. Christian Ponder surely won’t beat them.

And the key to sweeping the Chicago Bears is twofold. Offensively, Green Bay must stay patient. Chicago is by far the best defense at forcing turnovers, so it is vital to not try to force anything.

Defensively, they must attack. Chicago’s offensive line still struggles to block for Jay Cutler, and we all know how Cutler performs under a heavy pass rush. Matthews should be healthy by then and be able to lead the attack on the quarterback.

It won’t be easy, but as long as the Packers stay relatively healthy and true to who they are, they shouldn’t have a problem getting to January.