The North Report - Packers can clinch Sunday

With the rest of the NFC North barely visible in the Packers' rear-view mirror, Packers' playoff talk is more than speculation. With just over half of their schedule in the books, the 8-1 Packers are poised to clinch the inaugural North Division title this weekend.<p>

Green Bay's five game lead over Detroit, a team it has swept, makes the Packers' first division title since 1997 a question of 'when,' not 'if.' In order for it to happen this weekend, Green Bay needs the following scenario:

-A Packer win over Minnesota in the Metrodome; -A NY Jets win over Detroit at Ford Field.

A Packers win would push their record to 9-1 on the season, while a Jets win would drop the Lions to 3-7. With six games left on the schedule after that, the best the Lions could do would be to tie the Packers at 9-7. But the Packers would own the tiebreaker in such an instance, having already defeated the Lions in both meetings this year.

A 9-1 record would eclipse the mark reached by the '96 team after 10 games (8-2). In fact, in the last 50 years, only the 1962 team reached 9-1. You'd have to go back to the heyday of the Curly Lambeau to better the accomplishment.

Should Green Bay clinch the inaugural NFC North title this weekend, it would not only mark the earliest securing of a division title in franchise history, but also in league history since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.

But what about the big, bad Bears. Believe it or not, even if the Packers win this weekend, that wouldn't prohibit the Chicago Bears from ending the season in a tie at 9-7. The Bears would have to win-out the rest of their season to do so, leading to a split of their head-to-head meetings with the Packers in the process.

In that instance, the tiebreaker would be divisional record.

As of now, the Bears can go no better than 3-3 against NFC North opponents this season. Should the Packers defeat the Vikings this weekend -- a necessary element in all of these possibilities -- Green Bay could go no worse than 4-2.

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