Win Sunday Means More Than Just Beating Favre

Sunday's game vs. the Vikings will be the turning point in the Packers' season and might even determine whether or not they make the playoffs. Matt Tevsh breaks down the NFC playoff picture and projects how it will all play out.

Is it too early to talk NFC playoffs?

Some might say yes since the calendar has yet to hit November. Others might say no, since this week's slate of games feature three heavyweight bouts that feel like playoff matchups.

The biggest of those bouts is at Lambeau Field, where Brett Favre will make his return to Green Bay for the first time with the Vikings (6-1) to take on the Packers (4-2). Beside the obvious reason for the hype, this game has major implications in the NFC North standings, more than any game at Lambeau since 2004.

Should the Packers win, their season takes on a new meaning. Not only will they have avoided a season sweep against their former quarterback, but more importantly, they will move just one-half game behind the Vikings — and tied in the loss column — in the NFC North standings. They would also keep pace in the wild-card race, if not lead that race by the end of Week 8.

Should the Packers lose, they face an uphill battle. Not only will they have to deal with the backlash from being swept by the Favre and the Vikings, but they can kiss goodbye any shot at division title. The Packers would remain in the wild-card hunt, but based on the remaining NFL schedule, they would have a tough battle with three other teams for two spots.

The capsules below provide a snapshot of what the NFC leaders face and where they are projected to finish:

1. New Orleans Saints (6-0), NFC South leader

Key remaining games: vs. Falcons (Nov. 2), vs. Patriots (Nov. 30), at Atlanta (Dec. 13), vs. Cowboys (Dec. 19)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 21-38 (.356)

Projected final record: 15-1

2. Minnesota Vikings (6-1), NFC North leader

Key remaining games: at Green Bay (Nov. 1), vs. Bears (Nov. 29), at Arizona (Dec. 6), vs. Bengals (Dec. 13), at Chicago (Dec. 28), vs. Giants (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 29-27 (.518)

Projected final record: 12-4

3. Arizona Cardinals (4-2), NFC West leader

Key remaining games: at Chicago (Nov. 8), vs. Vikings (Dec. 6), at San Francisco (Dec. 14), vs. Packers (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 21-42 (.333)

Projected final record: 12-4

4. N.Y. Giants (5-2), NFC East leader

Key remaining games: at Philadelphia (Nov. 1), vs. Chargers (Nov. 8), vs. Falcons (Nov. 22), at Denver (Nov. 26), vs. Cowboys (Dec. 6), vs. Eagles (Dec. 13), at Minnesota (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 35-21 (.625)

Projected final record: 11-5

5. Atlanta Falcons (4-2)

Key remaining games: at New Orleans (Nov. 2), at NY Giants (Nov. 22), vs. Eagles (Dec. 6), vs. Saints (Dec. 13), at NY Jets (Dec. 20)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 32-34 (.485)

Projected final record: 12-4

6. Green Bay Packers (4-2)

Key remaining games: vs. Vikings (Nov. 1), vs. Cowboys (Nov. 15), vs. 49ers (Nov. 22), vs. Ravens (Dec. 7), at Chicago (Dec. 13), at Pittsburgh (Dec. 20), at Arizona (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 31-32 (.492)

Projected final record: 10-6

7. Dallas Cowboys (4-2)

Key remaining games: at Philadelphia (Nov. 8), at Green Bay (Nov. 15), at NY Giants (Dec. 6), vs. Chargers (Dec. 13), at New Orleans (Dec. 19), vs. Eagles (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 34-30 (.531)

Projected final record: 10-6

8. Philadelphia Eagles (4-2)

Key remaining games: vs. Giants (Nov. 1), vs. Cowboys (Nov. 8), at San Diego (Nov. 15), at Chicago (Nov. 22), at Atlanta (Dec. 6), at NY Giants (Dec. 13), vs. 49ers (Dec. 20), vs. Broncos (Dec. 27), at Dallas (Jan. 3)

Combined record of remaining opponents: 39-24 (.619)

Projected final record: 9-7

The projections above have factored in a Packers victory over the Vikings on Sunday. It also figures in the Packers beating the Cowboys at Lambeau on Nov. 15, which would break the tie for the final wild-card spot.

At least six teams in the NFC have played themselves out of any chance for the playoffs. The Buccaneers (0-7), Rams (0-7), Lions (1-5), Redskins (2-5), Panthers (2-4), and Seahawks (2-4) are all playing for next season.

That leaves just the Bears (3-3) and 49ers (3-3) in the NFC chase playing catch-up. So it looks like the top eight teams listed above will be battling for playoff positioning over the final two-plus months.

Sunday's Packers-Vikings game holds more importance for the Packers looking ahead. They need to stay even with the Vikings to have a chance headed into a difficult stretch of games in December that include a Monday nighter at home vs. Baltimore (3-3), at Chicago (3-3), at Pittsburgh (5-2) and at Arizona (4-2), though the Cardinals could well have a division title wrapped up by the final game of the regular season.

The Vikings have a similarly tough December and January schedule, but three straight home games against the Lions, Seahawks and Bears in November make it almost a lock that they will be no worse than 9-2.

The Packers have a chance, but would do well just to keep pace by the end of November. That is why Sunday means everything.

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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