Round 2, however, will be winner-takes-all.
With Aaron Rodgers throwing his 30th touchdown pass of the season and the Packers setting team records for run defense and turnover margin, Green Bay domolished the Arizona Cardinals 33-7 on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
With the Minnesota Vikings demolishing the lifeless New York Giants in the noon game, the regular-season finale had absolutely no playoff implications for either team. So, the Packers did exactly what coach Mike McCarthy promised -- play to win and maintain momentum -- while the Cardinals showed almost no interest in playing after the Vikings' victory deprived them of a chance to move up to the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
So, the dominating nature of the victory probably means little or nothing for next weekend's playoff rematch back in Glendale.
The Packers converted a fourth-and-1 on their first drive of the game and scored on a 1-yard run by Ryan Grant. The defense allowed one first down before forcing a punt, and the offense made it 14-0 with a 54-yard pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson setting up his 1-yard touchdown sneak.
After an exchange of punts, Clay Matthews III forced a safety by being held in the end zone. Just like that, it was 16-0 just 17:27 into the game. A field goal after the free kick made it 19-0 and Charles Woodson's pick-six made it 26-0 with 4:31 remaining in the first half.
Packers at Cardinals on Sunday
The playoff schedule was released just before 10 p.m., with the Packers facing Arizona at 3:40 p.m. on Sunday on Fox.
The 2010 schedule
— The teams on the 2010 schedule are set. At home, the Packers will face Chicago (7-9), Detroit (2-14), Minnesota (12-4), Dallas (11-5), New York Giants (8-8), Buffalo (6-10), Miami (7-9) and San Francisco (8-8).
On the road, they'll face, Chicago (7-9), Detroit (2-14), Minnesota (12-4), Philadelphia (11-5), Washington (4-12), New England (10-6), New York Jets (9-7) and Atlanta (9-7).
That's a cumulative record of 125-131 (.488), which is better than this year's 113-143 (.441).
On the third play from scrimmage, Pro Bowl Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tackled tight end Jermichael Finley from behind. Rodgers-Cromartie's knee landed on Finley's cleats, causing a gash and bruise that ended the cornerback's day. Moments later, his replacement, Michael Adams, was flagged for pass interference to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Ryan Grant. On the next drive, Adams yielded a 51-yard completion to Jordy Nelson to set up a 1-yard touchdown sneak by Rodgers.
With the Cardinals playing a vanilla defense, Aaron Rodgers was free to pick the birds apart. He did just that, completing 21-of-26 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
30: With three interceptions, the Packers finished with a league-high 30 thefts. Pro Bowler Charles Woodson had nine, including a franchise-record three returned for touchdowns.
"It felt good two years ago going into it," coach Mike McCarthy said in comparing this team to the 2007 squad. "We had the opportunity to win at home but we had the bye week, so it was really a whole different circumstance. I knew we were going to have to make sure we gained our edge at practice because we were going to be off. This football team is relatively healthy. We're playing very well. They're probably very similar because I know we were probably 6-2 in the second half that year, and we're 7-1 in the second half this year. There are probably a lot of similarities."
The other things you need to know
— Cornerback Charles Woodson "jammed" his shoulder, coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he's going to be fine," McCarthy said. "We know that Charles has always fought through injuries. If the situation was different, he would have returned in the game."
The only other injury was to outside linebacker Brad Jones (ankle), who could have returned. McCarthy didn't think Jones would be added to the injury report.
"My goal going into the game was to play three quarters and see where the game stood," McCarthy said. "Obviously, we made our changes in the third quarter with about 4 minutes left. I felt very fortunate that we came out of the game healthy. I understand the risk as much as anybody and I understand the concerns that people would have going with this plan. It's in the best interest of our football team to play the best football going into playoffs. That's why we took this approach."
— Nose tackle Ryan Pickett was held out of the game with an injured hamstring but said he would have played if this was a playoff game.
— The Cardinals sustained two worrisome injuries. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he suffered a bruised kneecap but will be "playing ball" in the playoffs. Receiver Anquan Boldin hobbled off the field in the second half, saying "my knee and my ankle got caught up" in a collision with safety Nick Collins. Even it were a playoff game, he said he would not have returned.
— Clearly, the Cardinals kept things vanilla, and McCarthy didn't seem worried about giving away too much.
"I ended up going that way," he said. "I've had plenty of opportunities to build offenses and we're the same way on defense. We feel like we have plenty of bullets in our gun to play a doubleheader. I did find myself in the second and third quarters scratching stuff off my list and anticipating saving it for next week."
— Jarrett Bush remained the third corner with rookie Brandon Underwood supplanting Josh Bell as the fourth corner in the dime. Underwood recorded two tackles, including one for a loss.
— The players will be off on Monday and practice on Tuesday, regardless of the playoff schedule.
— The Packers' 7-1 second-half record is their best since doing the same in 1997.
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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.