Playoffs? Packers are still alive

Green Bay, in eighth place in the NFC playoff race, is a long shot, but is mathematically eligible to make the postseason if it wins its final two games.

Though a long shot, the Green Bay Packers took another step toward qualifying for the NFC playoffs with their victory over the Detroit Lions today at Lambeau Field.

By beating the Lions, the Packers improved to 6-8 and are tied with four other teams in the NFC that have identical overall records - Minnesota, San Francisco, St. Louis and Carolina. The Packers are the leader of those teams, and are in eighth place in the playoff race.

Six teams qualify for the NFC playoffs. Three NFC teams have clinched playoff berths. Chicago (12-2) the NFC North Division winner, clinched a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with its overtime victory over Tampa Bay today. The New Orleans Saints (9-5; currently the No. 2 seed), despite losing to Washington, clinched the NFC South Division. The Dallas Cowboys (9-5; currently the No. 3 seed) clinched a playoff berth by beating the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday and have the inside track on winning the NFC East.

Seattle (8-6) leads the NFC West and is currently the fourth seed.

Philadelphia (8-6) is the clear front-runner for a fifth playoff berth, either as NFC East champ or the first wild-card spot.

The New York Giants (7-7; games remaining vs. New Orleans and at Washington) is the leader for the other wild-card berth.

Atlanta is also 7-7, but because it trails the Giants based on record against NFC foes, it's on the outside looking in at the moment. The Falcons' remaining games are home vs. Carolina and at Philadelphia.

Green Bay leads the 6-8 teams, thanks to its 5-5 record against the NFC. The Packers close the season with games against staggering Minnesota and at Chicago, which has nothing to play for with homefield advantage wrapped up.

Also at 6-8, ranked in order of current playoff position, are San Francisco (5-6 vs. NFC; final games vs. Arizona and at Atlanta), Carolina (4-6 vs. NFC; final games at Atlanta and at New Orleans), Minnesota (4-6 vs. NFC; at Green Bay and vs. St. Louis) and St. Louis (4-6 vs. NFC; vs. Washington and at St. Louis). The Packers must win their final two games - this Thursday against Minnesota and Dec. 31 at Chicago - to have a chance of qualifying. The Packers also need two losses by the Giants and a loss by Atlanta.

"For us to be thinking playoffs - and I heard that there has been playoff talk - I mean, we got a long ways to go," said Packers quarterback Brett Favre. "I'm pleased we won the game, but if we think we can get into the playoffs playing like that ... I'm just calling it like I see it. I'm as much to blame as anyone. I'm pleased we won, but I'm also frustrated that we left a lot out there, and I have no idea what those reasons are."

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