Playoffs: An Imperfect 10

We break down the NFC playoff race by looking at all the teams in the chase for the two wild-card spots. Because 10-6 might not be good enough, the Packers face what amounts to a must-win game on Monday against Baltimore.

Here's a look at the NFC playoff race with five games remaining.

Division leaders

South: New Orleans (11-0). North: Minnesota (10-1). East: Dallas (8-3). West: Arizona (7-4).

Wild-card leaders

Philadelphia (7-4): Schedule — at Atlanta, at Giants, home San Francisco, home Denver, at Dallas. Cumulative record — 32-23. The only team with a losing record is San Francisco (5-6) and there are three games on the road at teams that are top NFC playoff contenders. The Eagles will have to win at least one of those.

Green Bay (7-4): Schedule — home Baltimore, at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, home Seattle, at Arizona. Cumulative — 27-28. With only two home games remaining, the Packers face a close-too-must-win vs. Baltimore on Monday. The Ravens are only 6-5, but they've lost by a combined eights points to Cincinnati (8-3), Minnesota (10-1) and Indianapolis (11-0). The Steelers also are 6-5 but they're 4-1 when Troy Polamalu is in the lineup. Plus, Bears coach Lovie Smith is 7-4 against the Packers, including 4-1 at home.

In hot pursuit

N.Y. Giants (6-5): Schedule — home Dallas, home Philadelphia, at Washington, home Carolina, at Minnesota. Cumulative — 32-23. On paper, the schedule is difficult, but the Giants get a break with three home games, a trip to Washington and a trip to Minnesota, which might be resting its starters by that point. The Giants very well could win all five games.

Atlanta (6-5): Schedule — home Philadelphia, home New Orleans, at Jets, home Buffalo, at Tampa Bay. Cumulative — 28-27. The Falcons' schedule is skewed by a game against the undefeated Saints. The big game is this week against Philadelphia.

San Francisco (5-6): Schedule — at Seattle, home Arizona, at Philadelphia, home Detroit, at St. Louis. Cumulative — 21-34. The 49ers remain in the thick of the NFC West race, trailing Arizona by two games. Considering the Cardinals host Minnesota on Sunday night, the 49ers could be playing for first place in two weeks. All of which means the Cardinals very well could be playing for their playoff lives in the season finale against Green Bay.

Others: Carolina, Chicago and Seattle are all 4-7. Carolina is finished, with New England, Minnesota, the Giants and New Orleans on the schedule. Chicago has a chance if it wins the next two weeks at home against St. Louis and Green Bay, but at Baltimore and home to Minnesota make the Bears a real long shot. The best team on Seattle's schedule is Green Bay.

In or out?

Monday's game could decide the Packers' season. Win, and they're 8-4. Assuming they beat Seattle and lose at Pittsburgh, that gets the Packers to nine wins. So, they'd have to win either at Chicago next week or at Arizona in the finale to get to 10 wins.

The Eagles figure to finish 10-6, as well, by winning one of their three road games and winning at home against San Francisco and Denver. The Falcons face a must-win game on Sunday at home against the Eagles. Lose that game, and Atlanta will have to beat New Orleans next week to have a chance to get to 10 wins.

The wild card in the wild-card race is New York. Sweeping Dallas and Philadelphia the next two weeks will be no easy task, but both games are at home. If the Vikings are locked into the second seed for the finale, then the Giants could steal a game by facing Tarvaris Jackson and Chester Taylor rather than Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson. So, there's a possibility the Giants win out and finish 11-5. If nothing else, 10-6 is a good bet.

Let's say the Packers, Eagles and Giants finish 10-6. All probably would finish with 8-4 records in the NFC. The next tiebreaker is common opponents, but that won't apply because there must be at least four and the only teams all three will have played are Dallas and Tampa Bay. The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, and the Packers would be behind the 8-ball with four wins against Detroit (twice), St. Louis and Cleveland.

So, for Green Bay, its best bet is to finish 4-1 to reach 11 wins or go 3-2 by losing to the AFC teams but beating the NFC teams to get the tiebreaker edge.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


Packer Report Top Stories