Even after the 31-27 loss to the Patriots – Green Bay's second straight defeat and third in four games – sent their record tumbling to 8-6, everything else broke just right and the Packers hold their playoff fate firmly in their own hands.
"Mike (McCarthy) told us today that our back was against the wall now," receiver Donald Driver said. "One thing about it is when you get a guy's back against the wall, you've got to come out punching. Right now, we know that we still have two games left and we've got to get to 10 wins. Ten wins, hopefully that will get us in the playoffs. And it's going to be trouble for a lot of teams (because) we know how good we are."
The NFC North
The Packers will need an unlikely win by Minnesota on Monday night at the University of Minnesota's new outdoor stadium to prevent Chicago from clinching the NFC North title. Without injured Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson, the Vikings will be going with third-string quarterback Joe Webb, a rookie who many scouts thought was a better prospect at wide receiver.
If the Bears win as expected, they would improve to 10-4 and hold a two-game lead over the Packers. While the teams could tie at 10-6, Chicago would hold the tiebreaker based on better division record, with the Packers' loss at Detroit being the difference.
If the Bears were to get upset on Monday, they'd be 9-5. If the Packers win out and the Bears beat the Jets but lose to Green Bay, both teams would finish 10-6. The head-to-head (1-1) and division (4-2) tiebreakers would be even. The next opponent is common opponents, and the Packers would win that at 9-5 compared to Chicago's 8-6.
NFC wild card race
Even with a loss at Baltimore, the Saints (10-4) are virtually assured of earning one of the wild-card berths. So, for the sake of simplicity, the Giants (9-5), Packers (8-6) and Buccaneers (8-6) are competing for the final playoff spot.
For Green Bay, it's simple: It must beat the Giants on Sunday at Lambeau Field and Chicago at Lambeau in the regular-season finale. Under that scenario, the Packers would finish 10-6. A loss next week would send the Giants to 9-6, with their finale at Washington (5-9). The Buccaneers wrap up their season at home against Seattle (6-8) and at the Saints (10-4).
If the Packers win out, the Giants lose to the Packers but beat the Redskins and the Buccaneers win out, all three would finish at 10-6. The first tiebreaker in a three-way tie is head-to-head, which does not apply because none of the teams played each other. The next is conference record, and all three teams would finish 8-4. The next is common games, but there has to be a minimum of four, so that doesn't apply. The next is strength of victory. The Giants' nine wins have come against teams with 49 wins, the Packers' eight wins have come against teams with 48 wins and the Buccaneers' eight wins have come against teams with just 32 wins. If the Packers win out, beating the Giants and Bears would add no less than 18 wins to that total, pushing their total to 66. The Giants, with a loss to Green Bay, could do no better than 56.
In a two-team tiebreaker against the Giants, the Packers would have the head-to-head tiebreaker. In a two-team tiebreaker against the Buccaneers, head-to-head doesn't apply and NFC record would be tied. The third tiebreaker is common opponents, but both teams will have gone 2-3 against Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington and Detroit. The next is strength of victory, which Green Bay would win convincingly.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.