The Packers could have clinched a playoff berth had they beat the slumping Steelers on Sunday at Pittsburgh and had Dallas lost at undefeated New Orleans on Saturday night. Instead, the Packers' five-game winning streak was snapped on Ben Roethlisberger's last-play touchdown and the Cowboys' defense stymied the high-flying Saints' offense.
The good news is the Packers control their playoff destiny and a loss against an out-of-conference opponent won't impact any tiebreakers. At 9-5, they are tied with the Cowboys for the two wild-card spots. If the Giants (7-6) win at Washington (4-9) on Monday night, New York would trail Green Bay and Dallas by one game.
"It's important to correct this and move on to Seattle," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The Seattle game is very important to us. We need to get our win total to 10. There better be a focus as soon as we get off the plane in Green Bay. Tough loss for everybody, to let one get away at the last play of the game is a hard one to swallow."
The three most-likely scenarios to get the Packers into the playoffs:
One: If Green Bay wins at home against Seattle (5-9) on Sunday and at Arizona (9-5) on Jan. 3, it would be the fifth seed in the playoffs and play at the worst of the division winners the following weekend.
Two: If the Packers win one of their two games and the Giants lose once — they host Carolina (6-8) next week and close at Minnesota (11-3) — the Packers would qualify for the postseason.
Three: If the Packers, Cowboys and Giants finish in a three-way tie for the two wild-card berths, the Packers would reach the playoffs, too. In a three-way tiebreaker involving two teams from one division, the first step is to eliminate one of the division teams. Thus, the Giants advance by virtue of their sweep of the Cowboys. That would leave Green Bay and Dallas for the last spot, with the Packers getting the nod because of their Nov. 15 win at Lambeau.
The Packers miss the playoffs in two ways.
First, they end with a three-game losing streak and finish 9-7, with Dallas and New York reaching at least 10 wins. Second, Dallas wins one wild card and the Packers and Giants tie for the other spot. In that scenario, the tiebreaker is common opponents, and the Packers would be doomed by a loss to Tampa Bay and a sweep to Minnesota.
New Orleans (13-1) and Minnesota (11-3) remain in control of first-round byes, with Philadelphia (10-4) and Arizona (9-5) leading the other divisions.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.