'Tis the Season

It's that time of year again. You know, the eagerly waited time when young and old grow giddy with anticipation, waiting for the magic of...<p> THE PACKER PLAYOFF PICTURE!<p> After the heart-warming win over Chicago Sunday, the 9-3 Packers control their own destiny for a first-round bye and a gift that's on every NFL team's wish list: a post-season home game.<p> Another coveted present may be delivered early. Green Bay can clinch a playoff berth this weekend.<P>

Here is the scenario that would put the Packers into the playoffs with none of those bothersome holiday waiting lines:

1) Green Bay must win at Tennessee (3:15 p.m. Sunday)

2)Tampa Bay must lose to Chicago (noon Sunday)

3)Atlanta must either lose or tie at Indianapolis (noon Sunday).


4) Either Washington must lose to or tie with Philadelphia (3:15 p.m. Sunday)


5) New Orleans must lose or tie with St. Louis (Monday Night).

Ironically, that scenario includes some elements that are not beneficial to Green Bay in the long run. As long as the Packers win, it's much more to their advantage if the Bears lose. Due to the tiebreaker in their favor, the Packers would hold a 2-game advantage with three to play if Chicago does fall to the Bucs.

Likewise, a St. Louis win would benefit the Packers' immediate playoff picture, but Green Bay must gain a game on the Rams in order to earn the highly-coveted home-field advantage throughout (see 1996). Even more curious, the Bears need only win to clinch a playoff berth. That's right -- no either/or/and/etc. Just a win. That's because Chicago is playing an NFC team (and division opponent) and could stack tiebreakers in its favor with a win.

How likely is the Packers' above scenario? Actually, the odds are good. Washington, though on an upswing, is offensively challenged. The Saints have a better chance vs. St. Louis than most teams, especially since the game is in the Superdome, but the chances of the Rams coming out on top are pretty high any week of the season.

Due to the Bears and Rams factors, it would behoove the Packers to just win and hang on until next week to receive their invitation to the dance.

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