The Packers are competing for the top seed in the NFC, which would secure them a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. Former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith thinks that might not be worthwhile to Green Bay’s players, but not for the reason he thinks.
Speaking at halftime of the Bills-Broncos game on Saturday, the former Panthers star made two points: First, he noted that Green Bay (10-3) is in a groove and might be better off not taking a week off. Then Smith concluded his argument by saying that the Packers might as well “play and get paid.”
“You don’t get a playoff check if you don’t play that week, so you’re just sitting around and not collecting any money,” Smith said on NFL Network. “Let me play and get paid.”
One problem: Smith’s wrong about the money. The Packers will get paid even if they have a first-round bye, which is new under the NFL’s 2020 playoff rules.
Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, Green Bay players would receive $30,000 each, which is equal to the share for players on wild-card teams.
In general, though, NFL players are probably less concerned with that first-round playoff check than they are with winning the Super Bowl. Green Bay’s desired path surely is based on what gives it the best shot at the Lombardi Trophy.
“How they’re playing in the second half of the season really benefits them,” Smith said, “so slowing down and waiting for the next opponent doesn’t play well for them. I would rather be one of those teams, while we’re rolling, I would rather just keep going.”
The Packers enter their Week 15 Saturday night game vs. Carolina having won three consecutive games and five of their last six. That hot stretch has pushed Green Bay into the NFC’s No. 1 seed entering the week, a spot that would give the Packers the lone NFC playoff bye in 2020. With the playoffs expanding this year to seven teams from each conference, only one team gets a bye now instead of two.
In recent years, teams that earned byes and were subsequently the favorites in the divisional round ended up reaching the Super Bowl. Every year since 2013, the two Super Bowl teams have received first-round byes.
In the 2011 season, the Packers under Aaron Rodgers won the Super Bowl as a sixth seed and a wild card, but simple math would say that needing to win three games instead of four to hoist the Lombardi Trophy is the desired scenario. And with Rodgers still leading the way in Green Bay, it seems unlikely a bye week would have a heavy negative impact.
Besides, if the Packers were to lose their No. 1 seed and the first-round bye, then it would be because they’ve stopping playing as well as they have, which would defeat half of Smith’s argument. All that would be left at that point would be the checks, and they’ll get those either way.