Packers Control Their Destiny

There's a razor-thin margin for error in the NFC, with Sunday's outcome the difference between first and eighth place in the conference standings.

Because of the fine line separating the contenders from the pretenders in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers' narrow defeat at Atlanta on Sunday was the difference between being tied for first place in the NFC to being on the outside of the playoff picture.

And with the Chicago Bears proving they're for real by beating the Philadelphia Eagles later Sunday, the Packers have little margin for error heading into the home stretch of the season.

"It was a big NFC game ; 7-4," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We still have a lot of football in front of us. We need to get this next one. Now we're into December football. There's no re-dos, and no, ‘Hey, we can get them next week.' We've been playing good football. We did a lot of positive things today, a lot of positive plays from a number of different players. You have to play big in the adverse downs in the game. We talk about adversity play calls on offense. We talk about playing adversity defense. Actually we've been playing outstanding adversity defense throughout the year. And one big play on special teams definitely hurt us there at the end."

Here's how things look: Atlanta leads the NFC South at 9-2 and Chicago leads the North at 8-3, with those teams in control of the first-round byes. The Eagles and Giants are 7-4, but Philadelphia leads the NFC East by virtue of its victory over New York last week. And the NFC West is a joke, but St. Louis holds the tiebreaker edge over Seattle, with both teams 5-6.

As for the two wild card spots, New Orleans tops the charts at 8-3, with Green Bay, Tampa Bay and the Giants at 7-4. The first tiebreaker is conference record, with the Giants and Buccaneers 5-2 and the Packers 5-3.

It's still too early to get too worked up over all the wild card machinations because the NFC North title is still in the Packers' hands. If Green Bay beats Chicago in the season finale at Lambeau Field and if nothing else changes in the standings, the teams would end up tied. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, which would be tied 1-1. The next tiebreaker is division record, which would be tied, as well. The next tiebreaker is common opponents: the six division games and four matchups apiece against the NFC East (Dallas, Giants, Washington and Philadelphia) and AFC East (Buffalo, Miami, New England and Jets). That tiebreaker would be tied, as well – the Packers are 7-3 (games remaining against Chicago, Detroit, Giants and New England) and the Bears are 7-2 (games remaining against all three North teams, New England and the Jets). That would leave it to conference record. Both teams have three losses in NFC games, so a Green Bay win in the finale would be the difference.

"There's still five games left and a lot of stuff can happen," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We just need to play better as we get into December."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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