The Green Bay Packers have played nine games, but it seems like they have already faced an entire 16 games worth of adversity.
They had a dud of a season opener in a loss against the San Francisco 49ers, and then there was the infamous blown call on Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks. The Packers managed to get back to .500 by beating the New Orleans Saints, but the following week, they blew an 18-point lead and lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Packers went on to win their next four games before the bye week, but even those had a high cost.
Injuries began to rack up, and the Packers linebackers dropped like flies, suddenly leaving only A.J. Hawk and Erik Walden standing, with D.J. Smith, Nick Perry and Desmond Bishop all out for the season. Now, Clay Matthews may be out a couple weeks with a hamstring injury.
Toss in some inconsistency on offense, and it’s been quite a wild ride for the Packers in 2012. That said, they are 6-3 and in prime position for a Wild Card. They also can’t completely be ruled out of the NFC North race, and perhaps they even still have a shot at home-field advantage in the playoffs.
So where could the Packers be at the start of the postseason?
NFC North Champions: Very Possible
That’s nowhere near an impossible deficit to erase. The Packers still have five of their six division games remaining, including one against the Bears.
Winning the NFC North and getting at least one home playoff game is by no means out of the question.
Home-Field Advantage: Unlikely
The Packers won’t be able to do a thing about this until the Atlanta Falcons lose a game. With the Falcons being a potential 9-0 after this weekend, the Packers would trail them by three games with seven to go.
Those aren't easy odds to overcome.
Even if the Falcons drop off, the Packers still have to pass the 49ers, which won’t be easy given the 49ers hold the tiebreaker thanks to their season-opening win in Green Bay.
It looks like no road to the Super Bowl through Lambeau Field this season.
First-Round Bye: Unlikely but Possible
Obviously, to even get the bye, the Packers would need to win the NFC North. As mentioned earlier, with five divisional games remaining, it is very possible for the Packers to snatch the division title. The Packers would have to leapfrog either the 49ers, Falcons or Saints, and given how banged up the Packers are, the odds are definitely not in the Packers' favor.
They have dealt with injuries before, most notably in their magical run to Super Bowl XLV. This time around, however, things seem to be much worse, as the Packers have been absolutely decimated on the defensive side of the ball.
Stranger things have happened, but getting a first-round bye for the Packers at this point is going to be tough.
Wild Card: Near Certainty
Even if the Packers go 3-2 in their divisional games and beat the Tennessee Titans, they will be 10-6, which puts them in prime position for a Wild Card in the NFC.
The past two Super Bowl champions have been Wild Cards (including the Packers in 2010), so this does not mean the Packers would be a long shot for a Super Bowl trip. Anything can happen in the NFL playoffs, and whoever catches fire late will hold the keys to making it to New Orleans.
Can you really count out Aaron Rodgers with his back against the wall? Ask the Texans.
Super Bowl Champions: Too Soon to Tell
If the Packers are somehow able to repeat the feat of taking a wounded squad all the way to the Lombardi Trophy, then Mike McCarthy deserves a lifetime contract.
What the team did in 2010 was nothing short of remarkable. To be able to be in an even worse injury situation two years later and somehow manage to win the Super Bowl would be legendary.
That’s not to say McCarthy and company can’t do it. GM Ted Thompson has built one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, and the Packers are probably the one team in the league that can endure such an injury epidemic.
No one wins the Super Bowl in November. The Packers need to somehow find a way to play their best ball as December approaches. If the Packers catch fire late like they did in 2010, then the title could be theirs for the taking.
It’s the NFL. Anything can happen.