The Green Bay Packers have a 9-4 record heading into the their Week 15 confrontation with the 6-7 Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers are currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture as the NFC North division leader.
If the Packers beat the Raiders on Sunday, the team would clinch a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive year.
The first priority for the Packers right now is to ensure a playoff berth. A win on Sunday takes care of that.
The second priority is to win the NFC North division. A win in either of the next two games and a win versus the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Week 17 would take care of that scenario.
If that happens the Packers would be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.
With all of that in mind, the Packers still have a real opportunity to overtake the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which would also mean a bye in the first week of the postseason.
The Carolina Panthers are currently locked in as the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a 13-0 record. There is a possibility of that changing, but the Panthers would need a collapse of epic proportions for that to happen.
The Cardinals are a different story, however. They have a very tough schedule down the stretch. Their final three games of the season are against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, the Packers at home and the Seattle Seahawks at home.
If the Cardinals lost against either the Eagles or the Seahawks, plus lost to the Packers, the door would be wide open for Green Bay to get the No. 2 seed.
The Packers would need to win all three of their remaining three games for that to happen.
If that scenario happened, both the Packers and the Cardinals would be 12-4. Both teams would also have 9-3 records in the NFC.
The tiebreaker in that scenario would be the head-to-head game between the two teams. That would go to the Packers with a victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Could this really happen? It’s definitely a possibility.
The Cardinals are playing extremely well right now, but face a very serious test over the next three weeks. The Eagles are not a team that one should overlook. Just look at what happened when they played the New England Patriots a couple weeks ago.
The Packers seem to be gaining their stride, especially with head coach Mike McCarthy calling the plays again on offense, like he did last week versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the combination of Eddie Lacy and James Starks at running back played very well against the Cowboys under that scenario.
As did wide receiver Randall Cobb, who had his best game in a number of weeks with eight receptions for 81 yards.
The strength of the defense for the Packers has been their secondary and that would bode well against the Cardinals, with all the receiving threats that Arizona has at wide receiver.
A good pass rush would help as well and the Packers are currently tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks. That being said, quarterback Carson Palmer of the Cardinals has only been sacked 21 times.
Still, applying good pass-pressure doesn’t have to include a sack. The key is to interrupt the timing of a passing play.
After they play the Packers, the Cardinals will have to face the hottest team in the NFL right now, which is the Seahawks.
Bottom line, the Packers need to take it one step at a time. First get in the playoffs. Then win the NFC North for the fifth consecutive year.
At that point, if the possibility still remains, getting the No. 2 seed would be huge for the Packers. It would mean a week off for all the walking wounded on the team in the postseason.
But first things first. It all starts by winning at Oakland.