Let’s take a look at the playoff picture in the NFC and how it’s all shaping up for the Packers. Obviously the loss to the Lions hurts in the ever-so-tight NFC, but the fact that it was a division (and conference) game makes it sting that much worse. The Packers now sit at 8-5 and are at the bottom of what now looks to be a race between threes teams for one spot in the playoffs.
Beginning in the NFC South, the Falcons took care of business over the Panthers to move to an NFC-best 11-2, the Saints got a big win over the Rams to get to 10 wins, and the Buccaneers hung on and used a last-second blunder by the Redskins to improve to 8-5. It’s almost a certainty that two teams will come out of this ultra-competitive division, with the Falcons and Saints fighting for the division spot and the other, most likely the Saints at this point, with a firm grasp on a wildcard spot. The Buccaneers are fighting a few key injuries on defense and did not look impressive, but 8-5 currently has them ahead of the Packers and one Giants loss tomorrow night from being in the playoff picture.
The biggest storyline heading into the Packers’ Monday night contest with the red-hot Patriots has to be the status of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After suffering a concussion late in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions, Rodgers’ availability is in serious doubt. It is his second concussion this season (he suffered one in overtime against the Redskins) and will most likely not practice until Saturday, meaning he’s almost surely out of Sunday night’s tilt.
That means backup Matt Flynn will probably make his first career start just a week after passing for 177 yards and an interception against the Lions. It was an admirable performance for a backup entering in the middle of the game, but a crucial interception in the Lions’ endzone stalled a drive that would have been turned into points in a close game.
The Patriots have outscored its opponents 114-17 over the last 10 quarters and have won five straight, making them arguably the hottest team in the NFL. Making things worse is that the game will be played in New England, where the Patriots are 6-0 this season. They have won 21 of its last 22 games against NFC opponents and will be highly favored to add to that streak come Sunday.