GREEN BAY—All right, folks, this is where the season gets really fun – and sometimes confusing – figuring out whom the Packers need to win or lose to help their playoff chances.
The Packers have made the playoffs in five of the last six years, and at 5-5 with six games left, they’re in a dogfight to make it six of seven.
The Packers’ division titles in 2007, ’11 and ’12 were all clinched with at least one regular-season game remaining. Even the ’09 Wild Card berth was clinched early.
That won’t be the case this year. It’s almost a certainty that if the Packers are to make the playoffs, it will come down to the regular-season finale against the Bears – just like in 2010 – but the Packers have to stay in the hunt long enough, and it won’t hurt to get some help along the way.
This week, you’re big fans of the Buccaneers and Rams on Sunday. Tampa Bay plays at Detroit while Chicago travels to St. Louis, and both games are going on at the same time as Packers-Vikings, so it’s going to be a ticker-update kind of day.
With the Lions and Bears tied for the NFC North lead at 6-4, one game ahead of the Packers, losses by them would matter most right now. The best path to the playoffs is to win the division, so those games will always take priority until further notice.
After that, there are four other games this week you should pay attention to that could factor into a potential Wild Card scenario down the road.
Former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin can help his old team by having his Dolphins stop the Panthers’ current six-game winning streak, which has them at 7-3.
Another hot NFC team, 6-4 Arizona, has won three in a row, and you wouldn’t mind seeing the Cardinals stumble at home against the Colts.
Suddenly struggling San Francisco, also 6-4, visits Washington on Monday night, and it wouldn’t hurt if the Redskins end their losing streak before the 49ers do.
Last but certainly not least is the NFC East showdown between 5-5 Dallas and the 4-6 New York Giants at the Meadowlands, which will hit most of your FOX stations once Packers-Vikings concludes.
This is kind of a toss-up. Who wants either team to win, right? How the next five weeks play out could also affect whom the Packers would really prefer to win this game, but we don’t have the benefit of foresight, unless someone tore a page out of Biff Tannen’s sports almanac. (Hey, if you’re tired of hearing about Vic’s nostalgia, at least my pop-culture references are a decade or two more recent.)
You could make an argument for wanting the Cowboys, because the Packers already lost to the Giants and, therefore, would lose any head-to-head tiebreaker with them for a Wild Card spot. Green Bay travels to Dallas in mid-December and could gain such a tiebreaker advantage over the Cowboys then.
But since New York already has six losses, I say root for the Giants to give the Cowboys their sixth loss. That way both teams are one loss away from being unable to hit the magic number of 10 wins. Plus, it might be a good idea to keep the Giants in the hunt as long as possible, because they travel to Detroit in Week 16, and it might help the Packers if the Giants are still playing for something then. Just sayin’.
Happy scoreboard watching, everyone.