3 Things Packers Must Avoid to Clinch NFC's No. 1 Seed

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2021

3 Things Packers Must Avoid to Clinch NFC's No. 1 Seed

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers came away from Week 15 as the biggest winner in any playoff race. 

    Aaron Rodgers and Co. secured the first playoff berth of the 2021 season by clinching the NFC North title with a win over the Baltimore Ravens

    The path to the No. 1 seed in the NFC cleared for the Packers after the Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both lost. 

    Green Bay heads into Week 16 with a one-game advantage over Arizona, Tampa Bay and the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC's top spot. 

    All the Packers have to do is keep winning and the path to the Super Bowl in the NFC will once again go through Lambeau Field. 

Avoid a Week 16 Letdown Against Cleveland

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    The Packers can't let their guard down in Week 16. 

    The Cleveland Browns come into Lambeau Field on Christmas Day in need of a victory to get back into the AFC North and wild-card hunts.

    Cleveland played short-handed in Monday's loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, but there is plenty of time for some of its star players to test out of COVID-19 protocols. 

    Green Bay can't avoid a letdown at home that two of its closest competitors for the NFC's No. 1 seed suffered in Week 15. 

    Arizona played poorly against the Detroit Lions, and it ended up on the wrong end of the final score. The Cardinals dropped to fourth in the NFC with the defeat. 

    Tampa Bay faced some different circumstances on Sunday, as it lost Mike Evans, Leonard Fournette and Chris Godwin to injuries, but it still struggled to break down the New Orleans Saints defense with them all on the field in the first half. 

    Green Bay needs to consolidate its lead atop the NFC with a win over Cleveland, and it should achieve that feat as long as it avoids a letdown against Cleveland after an emotional week in which it took an advantage in the NFC standings. 

Avoid Another Conference Loss

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    Conference record is the tiebreaker that will be used between the Packers, Dallas and Tampa Bay if they are tied at any point in the next three weeks. 

    Green Bay can't afford to lose either of its in-conference games against the Lions and Minnesota Vikings because Dallas has a better mark inside the NFC.

    Dallas has the best in-conference record of any NFC team at 8-1. Tampa Bay dropped to 6-4 within the NFC after its loss to the Saints. 

    The Cowboys are a half-game ahead of the Packers in the conference record with three NFC matchups left on their schedule. 

    Dallas plays the Washington Football Team in Week 16, Arizona in Week 17 and it closes with the Philadelphia Eagles

    The Cowboys could sweep those games and finish 13-4, especially with how the Cardinals are trending downward. 

    The Packers will not have to worry about the conference record tiebreaker as long as they win out, which is possible given the state of their next three opponents. 

Avoid Injuries

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    As we saw with the Bucs in Week 15, a Super Bowl contender can go from the top of the mountain to struggling with injuries in an instant. 

    Tampa Bay had the worst week possible since it lost its top rusher and top two pass-catchers to injuries in a game in which it failed to score a single point. 

    Few teams are going to have injury luck that bad over the next three weeks, but it is important for the Packers to stay healthy for the rest of the regular season.

    If Aaron Rodgers hurts his injured toe more or the Packers lose Davante Adams, they could be in for a more difficult ride to the No. 1 seed. 

    Green Bay has some insurance at running back in AJ Dillon if Aaron Jones were to go down, but it would still prefer to have both running backs healthy so it could wear down any opponents. 

    If the Packers remain as healthy in December, they should earn the only first-round bye handed out in the NFC.