Playoff fate rests with Giants, Rams

Losses by the Giants, Falcons and 49ers on Sunday helped Green Bay's postseason hopes, but an October loss to St. Louis could come back to haunt the Packers.

Cue that old Jim Mora line, when the former Indianapolis Colts coach said, with that you've-got-to-be-kidding-me tone, "Playoffs?!?!"

The Green Bay Packers, who even the players' moms would almost unanimously agree don't belong in the playoffs considering they haven't beaten a credible outfit this season, are in the thick of the NFC's putrid postseason picture entering the final weekend of games.

If that's not amazing enough, there's this: Cheering for Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and the Minnesota Vikings is sacrilege. Next weekend, if you bleed green and gold you'll be cheering for the purple and gold, though.

Thanks to the New York Giants losing at home to New Orleans, the Atlanta Falcons losing at home to Carolina and the San Francisco 49ers losing to Arizona on Sunday, the Packers are in seventh place in the chase for the NFC's six playoff spots. They are in a five-way logjam for the final postseason berth.

While the St. Louis Rams are way down the chart at No. 9, they and the Giants — who remain in the sixth position despite losing six of their last seven games — are the obstacles standing between the Packers and the most unlikely of playoff berths.

The Rams host Minnesota and the Giants travel to Washington to end their regular seasons.

First thing's first, though. The Packers must win at Chicago on Sunday. If they lose, they are eliminated. Period.

Actually, the first domino that has to fall would be on Saturday night. If the Giants beat the Redskins, they would eliminate the Packers based on a way-down-the-list tiebreaker — strength of victory (the records of the teams they beat).

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head (the teams didn't play). The next is conference record (both would be 7-5). The next is record against common opponents (both would be 1-4, with the Giants beating Philadelphia once and the Packers beating the Bears once). The next is strength of victory. The Packers haven't beaten a winning team all season, while the Giants have wins over Dallas and Philadelphia.

The five teams entering Week 17 with 7-8 records are Green Bay, the Giants, Carolina, Atlanta and St. Louis.

Carolina plays at New Orleans next week. Atlanta plays at Philadelphia next week. If those games go according to form and both the Panthers and Falcons lose, the Packers would be in deep trouble, since they would lose the tiebreaker to the Giants (assuming they win) and a tiebreaker to the Rams (assuming they win), based on St. Louis' win at Lambeau Field on Oct. 8.

There is a way the Packers can beat out the Rams, though.

In a three-team tiebreaker between the Packers, Rams and an NFC South team (either Carolina or Atlanta, not both, since the first tiebreaking criteria is to eliminate multiple teams from one division), Green Bay would advance based on a 7-5 conference record compared to the Rams' and the NFC South team's 6-6 marks.

The most likely scenarios that would include a Packers victory:

— The Giants and Rams also win, with the Giants grabbing the playoff spot.

— The Rams also win but the Giants lose, so the Rams get the playoff spot, despite at one point losing five in a row and seven of eight games.

Some other possible scenarios:

— If all five teams win, or lose, the Giants get the playoff spot.

— If the Packers win, the Giants lose, the Rams lose and Atlanta and/or Carolina win, the Packers get in, based on a 7-5 NFC record compared to 6-6 for the others.

— Of course, if the Packers win and everybody else loses, the Packers are in with an 8-8 record compared to 7-9 for everyone else.

NFC playoff standings

Team Record NFC record

1. z-Chicago 13-2 11-0

2. z-New Orleans 10-5 9-2

3. y-Dallas 9-5 6-4

4. z-Seattle 8-7 6-5

5. Philadelphia 8-6 7-3

6. N.Y. Giants 7-8 6-5

7. Green Bay 7-8 6-5

8. Carolina 7-8 5-6

9. St. Louis 7-8 5-6

10. Atlanta 7-8 5-6

(z-clinch division title. y-clinch playoff berth

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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