GREEN BAY—The Philadelphia Eagles’ touchdown song – you know, the one called “Fly, Eagles Fly” that ends with the Lincoln Financial Field crowd chanting in deafening unison, “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!” – is a great NFL tradition and your favorite tune on Sunday.
Aside from winning their own game against the Falcons, more than anything else the Packers need the Eagles to knock off the Lions in Philly to tighten up the NFC North race. If you’ve ever been to “The Linc” as a visiting fan, the song and chant are nauseating, but it would be music to Packer Nation’s ears, for one day at least.
While the Packers’ odds of getting an NFC Wild Card spot are incredibly long, the chances of winning the division to get into the playoffs are at least reasonable. Green Bay, at 5-6-1, needs to win out while 7-5 Detroit loses two games. It would help tremendously if the first of those two losses came on Sunday.
You may be wondering about the 6-6 Bears also, and I’ll touch on their game later. But the bottom line with the Bears is if the Packers are going to win out, a win in Week 17 in Chicago would hand the Bears their seventh loss, so in that sense the Packers would no longer have to worry about the Bears.
That’s why any attention not on Green Bay should be paid to Philadelphia. The Lions-Eagles game means a ton this week.
As for that longshot at a Wild Card, a few games play into the picture.
Carolina and New Orleans, both 9-3, face each other for the NFC South lead, with the loser an immediate front-runner for a Wild Card berth. Mathematically, the only way the Packers finish ahead of either of these teams is if one of them loses all its remaining games, so this one, in effect, doesn’t matter, but you’ll be rooting for the loser to lose out.
If we assume that’s not going to happen, however, then one Wild Card spot is already gone. The other one still has multiple contenders that you’ll want to lose.
Philadelphia cooled off 7-5 Arizona last week, and it’d be nice if the Rams handed the Cardinals another loss.
More important, the NFC’s top team, 11-1 Seattle, travels to 8-4 San Francisco. Should the 49ers win, they’d be one more win away from locking the Packers out of that second Wild Card, so cheer for the Seahawks to stop the Niners from getting that ninth win right now.
Finally, on Monday night, Chicago hosts 7-5 Dallas. This one, in my opinion, depends mainly on the state of the NFC North and the rest of the playoff picture after Sunday.
If the two key dominoes fall right – Packers win and Lions lose – then see what happens with the 49ers.
If San Francisco loses to Seattle, in effect keeping that second Wild Card in play for Green Bay for another week, then you might actually want the Bears to beat the Cowboys, as counterintuitive as that might sound.
But if the Niners win and the Wild Card is essentially out of the picture for the Packers, then it would be best for the Cowboys to beat the Bears and keep Chicago looking up at Detroit in the division race. That definitely becomes the choice should the Packers lose on Sunday, but then again, that’s not really an option, is it?
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