3 NFC North Teams Could Make the Dance

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In September, many NFL fans considered the NFC North a joke.

The Detroit Lions were the only team that looked legitimate, while the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Bears looked like the punchlines.

3 NFC North Teams Could Make the Dance

Fast forward to late November, and the Lions, Vikings, and Packers could reasonably make the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be weird at all.

Teams Could Make
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

After Week 5, the NFC North looked like this:

  • Detroit Lions: 4-1
  • Green Bay Packers: 2-3
  • Minnesota Vikings: 1-4
  • Chicago Bears: 1-4

And as of November 30th, this is the lay of the land:

  • Detroit Lions: 8-3
  • Minnesota Vikings: 6-6
  • Green Bay Packers: 5-6
  • Chicago Bears: 4-8
Wm. Glasheen/Appleton Post-Crescent -USA TODAY NETWORK.

Of course, the NFC North isn’t a total powerhouse, but with a team like the Seattle Seahawks, for example, holding a daunting schedule, the division is primed to send three teams to the postseason. Most playoff-predictor metrics foreshadow a Seattle downfall from Weeks 13-18, enabling the Vikings and Packers to slip through the playoff backdoor.

Here’s the ESPN Football Power Index playoff probability per team in the NFC North heading into Week 12:

  • Detroit Lions: 96.9%
  • Minnesota Vikings: 58.7%
  • Green Bay Packers: 46.6%
  • Chicago Bears: 1.8%

The Lions are a lock to make the dance, barring a historic collapse. The Vikings must finish 3-2 in the next five games, or the club will watch other teams’ scoreboards in Week 18 with a record worse than 3-2. The Packers must end the year about 4-2 in their next six games.

At 8-3, the Dallas Cowboys have the No. 5 seed all but sewn up. A chunky losing streak would be the only factor to derail Dallas’ playoff hopes. In fact, the Cowboys could still win the NFC East if the Philadelphia Eagles lose 2-3 games.

Detroit Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is tackled by Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens during the second half at Ford Field in Detroit on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.

For the Vikings’ and Packers’ sake, the Seahawks are the common enemy, and this is Seattle’s remaining schedule:

  • Week 13: at Dallas
  • Week 14: at 49ers
  • Week 15: vs. Eagles
  • Week 16: at Titans
  • Week 17: vs. Steelers
  • Week 18: at Cardinals

Then, this is Green Bay’s docket:

  • Week 13: vs. Chiefs
  • Week 14: at Giants
  • Week 15: vs. Buccaneers
  • Week 16: at Panthers
  • Week 17: at Vikings
  • Week 18: vs. Bears
Green Bay Packers linebacker Quay Walker (7) catches a pass in front of the Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) during their football game Sunday, October 29, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Finally, the Vikings’ itinerary:

  • Week 13: Bye
  • Week 14: at Raiders
  • Week 15: at Bengals
  • Week 16: vs. Lions
  • Week 17: vs. Packers
  • Week 18: at Lions

So, if one believes the Seahawks will flounder in the next few games, the door is wide open for the Lions, Vikings, and Packers to shimmy into the playoff tournament.

Or if the Vikings or Packers fall short, the Rams, Saints, or Falcons will be waiting for leftovers.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.