The Green Bay Packers have lost three consecutive games since their Week 7 bye, all after starting the season at 6-0—and needless to say, the “sky is falling” mentality is setting in.
The mounting concern has run the gamut, from people calling for the Packers to trade Eddie Lacy, to theories that Aaron Rodgers’ mediocre play is the result of issues in his relationship with actress Olivia Munn.
But, even setting aside for a moment the true hysterics, losing three games in a row and falling to 6-3 on the season means the Packers will have a difficult time reaching Super Bowl 50, right?
Not so fast.
Multiple recent Super Bowl champions have won it all despite losing three (or more!) games during their regular seasons.
You only have to go back three years, to the 2012-13 Baltimore Ravens, to find a team that dropped three straight in the regular season, only to get hot in the playoffs and eventually win it all.
The 2012 Ravens were cruising along at 9-2 before they stumbled late in the year to drop all three of their games between Week 13 and Week 15.
They would also go on to lose to the Cincinnati Bengals in the final week of the regular season, putting their record at 10-6 and forcing them to enter the postseason as a wild card.
It wasn’t an easy road through the playoffs, and the Ravens just barely slid by conference rival Denver in the Divisional Round, winning 38-35 in overtime. But they were able to overcome both the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, and the rest is history.
The 2011-12 New York Giants were in an even deeper hole as they fought to make their way to the biggest stage in sports.
The Giants had a 6-2 record by Week 9 of the 2011 season and were making a solid campaign for the title in the NFC East, but their ascent skidded to a halt starting in Week 10, when they lost the first of what would prove to be four consecutive games.
The tailspin meant that even if the Giants were to win out the rest of the season, their record could only be 10-6 at best—and as it turned out, they dropped one more game: Week 15 against Washington.
So at 9-7 and as the No. 4 seed in the NFC, the Giants began the playoffs in the Wild Card round. They went on to defeat the Falcons; the Packers, regrettably; the 49ers; and, finally, the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
History lesson aside, all of this is to say that the sky is, in fact, not falling for the 6-3 Packers. If the season ended today, the Packers would earn a wild-card spot as the No. 5 seed in the NFC (though Green Bay and Atlanta share identical 6-3 records, the Packers have lost fewer conference games).
Of course, the season does not end today, and the Packers have a tough slate ahead of them. Sunday’s game against Minnesota has something of a must-win feel to it, given that a loss to the Vikings would give the Chicago Bears a stepping stone to push for a wild-card spot.
But if the Packers were going to falter this season, it’s better to do it now, around the midpoint, and get hot heading into the playoffs.
If Green Bay has to enter the postseason as a wild card, so be it.
That worked out pretty well for the team in 2010.
All statistics and NFL rankings are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.