Right now, the focus for most fans is (justifiably) how we can jockey ourselves to a better draft position. Funny thing is, we're not mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt just yet. Step into my office and I'll show you the unlikely push to a second straight playoff birth.
Disclaimer: This FanPost is probably best accompanied by a cold beverage of the alcoholic persuasion. Enjoy.
Interestingly enough, our journey is contingent on winning the division. The NFC South has almost certainly locked up one Wild Card spot with the Saints and Panthers duking it out, and the NFC West is sure to produce the other WC team, with SF and Arizona both sitting at 7-4.
So how the hell do we go about capturing the NFC North title with a current record of 2-8-1...??
Step 1: Win out
Kind of goes without saying, but we have to win our five remaining games against: Da Bears, Ravens, Eagles, Bengals, and Lions. That's no cakewalk, ladies and gents. But remember on the other side of Thanksgiving last year, we were sitting at 6-6 and needed to win our last four games (which was the most difficult remaining schedule in the league, no less), plus get a little help on top of it to make the playoffs. While we're in a considerably deeper (and laughable) hole this season, one thing always needs to be kept in mind: 'improbable' =/= 'impossible'.
So for the sake of argument, let's say we win our final five games to rock a remarkably mediocre 7-8-1 record. That's a shade better than the 2010 Seahawks, who won the NFC West with a sub-.500 record (7-9). Hell, in the first round of the playoffs, they even beat the then-defending SB champs (their name doesn't bear repeating, but it starts with a '*' and ends in an 'aints').
Let's put it another way -- if there is any team that can completely muck up otherwise guaranteed top 5 draft pick status and make the playoffs with a middling record, it might as well be us, eh??
Of course, though, we need help. Lots of help. Oh, and we need other teams in the division to lose, too. (See what I did, there??)
Step 2: The Lions, Bears and Packers can only win, at most, one more game each
(...provided that game is not against the Vikings, in the case of the Lions and Bears, as we still need Step 1 to apply.)
What a year this has been for the NFC North. Earlier this month, I was arguing that the 'ol Black & Blue Division was arguably the toughest in the NFL -- if we hadn't lost against the Bears, Browns and Cowboys in the final minute, every team in the division would have been either 5-3 or 4-4. Now, I'm arguing for absolute mediocrity across the board, with every team in the division finishing under .500. Funny how things change...
For starters, something happened that I think many of us believed deep down -- the Packers would be completely useless without Aaron Rodgers. For how much the national media gushes over Ted Thompson and his brilliant drafting ability... welp, lotta good that's done 'em now, huh??
Similarly in Chicago, the Bears lost Cutler for an extended period of time. Journeyman QB Josh McCown has done admirably in his stead, but Chicago's defense is a shadow of its former self and quite vulnerable with the number of injuries they've sustained. (I'm sure by now via other posts on the DN, many of you know how much I value defensive play!!)
And the Lions... oh, the Lions... Detroit could not only be running away with the division right now, they could be looking down on everyone and pissing on the ashes. Instead, they've somehow found a way to simply piss their pants, as per usual.
With each team only 'allowed' one more win each in our scenario, dissecting their remaining schedules is pretty straight forward:
- Considering Aaron Rodgers is likely coming back for the end of the season, and he gives the Packers their best shot at winning, Green Bay especially needs to lose all the games Rodgers is out. This means it's in your best interest to cheer for the Lions on Thanksgiving. (Frankly, you should feel dirty cheering for the Packers in any scenario, so this should be easy enough.) After that, you have to hope the Falcons can somehow muster a win at Lambeau (in all likelihood, this would be GB's one win...); and the Packers finish the season @DAL, vsPIT, and @CHI -- which segways perfectly to...
- DAAAAA BEARS... simply put, cheer for the Bears to lose out, but beat GB the final week of the season (could be possible with games against the Cowboys, Browns and Eagles). This would actually be a moot point if the Bears and Packers both lose out to Week 17, as it wouldn't matter who won that game -- but that is the unlikeliest outcome in our highly unlikely scenario, anyway...
- With the Lions, we already mentioned them hopefully winning on Thanksgiving, so they'll have to lose out after that -- I would say that's unlikely as they have a mediocre schedule along the way vs the Ravens and Giants, and in Detroit for both games... but again, this is the Lions we're talking about.
Imagine if all this actually comes to fruition -- Wk 17, Lions @ Vikings, the final game in the Dome... what a way to go!! (Although, if all this came to be, we'd have one more game in the Dome, considering we'd be divisional winners. Awesome.)
So, to recap:
- Cheer for the Lions on Thanksgiving;
- Cheer for the Bears to lose out until Wk 17 vs the Packers.
- Always cheer against the Packers. Duh.
Step 3: Laugh. Our. Asses. Off.
Seriously. If this astronomical combination of events actually happened, the division would look like this:
Vikings -- 7-8-1
Lions -- 7-9
Bears -- 7-9
Packers -- 6-9-1
All in all, it would also mean one (or more) of several things happened:
a) Ponder pulled his head out of his ass and played good-to-great football, thus giving us an entire offseason to debate whether or not the front office would draft a QB with our 1st rd pick (which, by then, would have plummeted out of the top 5 into the 20s). Joy.
b) Ponder got injured or sucked enough to get benched (again); maybe Cassel stepped in to win a game... but we'd hand the keys to Freeman to see what the kid has, and he proved he wasn't a disaster. In which case, we'd have an entire offseason to debate whether or not Freeman will want to stay in MN after a cluster%#&* of a season, or hit the FA market. Double joy.
c) Considering our defensive veterans have proven they are incapable of doing their jobs, either rookies or younger backups stepped in to prove their worth -- giving us hope for the future.
d) The coaching staff did enough to keep their jobs. LOLWUT.
In a nutshell, you'd have to just be all...
Now get your head out of the clouds and tell me who we're drafting in the top 5.