Aaron Rodgers is likely to miss at least the next four weeks as he recovers from a broken collarbone. At 5-3, Green Bay's playoff hopes will hinge on how they manage without their best player for the next month.
Harrison: Week 10 Power Rankings
The Packers find themselves in a very difficult situation, but they're not the only NFC team working with a slim margin of error over the next two months. The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks all have the talent to make a deep run in January. (Some people might include the Cardinals in this mix, but not us.)
That's seven worthy teams competing for five playoff spots (one postseason seed is already spoken for in the messy NFC East). On the latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast," we discussed which of those contenders is most likely to be left on the outside looking in come January.
(Note: There's a 65 percent chance an NFC team not discussed here will rise to playoff status. This is understood. Feel free to call me an idiot when this inevitably happens.)
Why they will make it: They have impact players on both sides of the ball, they're the best home team in football, and Percy Harvin will make his debut before long.
Why they won't make it: The offense hasn't looked too hot the past two weeks, and they barely beat the winless Bucs at home on Sunday. Still, we're not worried. See you in January.
Why they will make it: They've quietly been the NFL's best team over the past five weeks. Colin Kaepernick is starting to look more and more like the guy who took over the league last season, and Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are all on the way back.
Why they won't make it: The Niners have a difficult schedule down ... who are we kidding? They're in.
Why they will make it: The Saints have found themselves with Sean Payton back in the fold. Drew Brees has played like an MVP and Rob Ryan has transformed the Saints' D from an abysmal state to one that can be legitimately respected. No small achievement.
Why they will make it: We don't want to take anything away from Josh McCown, who's done great things in Jay Cutler's stead. But the Bears' loaded offense could make almost any quarterback look good. Matt Forte is in vintage form, and looked like one of the game's best backs against the Packers on Monday night. And is there any wide receiver duo with more upside over the next three years than Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery?
Why they won't make it: On the ATL Podcast, Chris Wesseling suggested that Chicago's defense simply isn't good enough. The numbers certainly back that assertion: The Bears have allowed 28.2 points per game, the fourth-worst figure in the NFC. Their inability to stop the run (even against the Brandon Jacobses of the world) is alarming.
Why they will make it:Matthew Stafford is having the best season of his career. Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are studs, but the real revelation in Detroit is the offensive line. The unit has gone from team weakness to major strength.
Why they won't make it: The defense hasn't been the train wreck it was a season ago, but it hasn't gained our trust either. The unit is ranked 25th in the league, has depth issues at linebacker and a lack of consistency in the secondary.
Why they won't make it: We don't want to put it all on the shoulders of one guy, but we will. If the Packers miss the playoffs this year, it will be because Seneca Wallace wasn't qualified for the job. Don't rule it out.
Why they will make it: No team had scored a touchdown on the Panthers in the first half before the Falcons managed the feat on Sunday. Of course, Atlanta became the fourth straight team to lose to Carolina in blowout fashion. Cam Newton's vast improvement in recent weeks has elevated this team to scary status.
Why they won't make it: The combined record of the five teams the Panthers have beaten this season is 8-33. The wins have been impressive, as has been the rise of "Riverboat Ron," but we want to see the Panthers beat some teams that matter. A win in San Francisco on Sunday would certainly qualify.
The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Raiders' 2013 chances.