GREEN BAY – Well, the Packers' playoff scenarios got a lot simpler this past week.
Thanks to the Rams' victory over the Cardinals on Monday night, Green Bay jumped into the top spot in the NFC.
The Packers, Buccaneers and Cardinals are all tied with the best record at 10-3, with Green Bay owning the three-way tiebreaker – best conference record. The Packers are 8-2 vs. NFC teams, while the Bucs and Cards are both 6-3. Green Bay also has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Arizona, but that would only come into play in a potential two-way tie.
In any event, the bottom line is if the Packers win out, they will get the NFC's No. 1 seed, plus the bye and home-field advantage that come with it. Green Bay doesn't need any more help, which is good.
That said, any additional losses by the NFC's other contenders would give the Packers a hedge, and that would be good, too.
So let's go through the rundown.
First and foremost, the Packers' magic number to clinch the NFC North is down to one. Meaning, one more Green Bay win, or one more loss by Minnesota, and the division race is over.
So a Packers win Sunday in Baltimore would make Monday night's game between the Vikings (6-7) and Bears (4-9) irrelevant as far as the Packers are concerned, and Green Bay fans could essentially cheer for whichever division rival they despise least. If the Packers were to lose, though, or for anyone who would rather see Minnesota not get a wild-card spot, cheer for the Bears to beat the Vikings.
As for the rest of the NFC combatants, Dallas (9-4) is one game back of the Packers and taking on the N.Y. Giants (4-9). It wouldn't hurt to get some more breathing room over the NFC East leaders, so root for the Giants to knock off the Cowboys.
Similarly, the L.A. Rams (9-4) now sit one game behind Green Bay after their big win at Arizona. They play Seattle (5-8), so even though Packers fans were just cheering for L.A., and as hard as this might be to do, pull for the Seahawks to defeat the Rams.
Meanwhile, Arizona (10-3) is off to Detroit (1-11-1) in one of the most lopsided matchups record-wise. But it's a short week for the Cardinals coming off an emotional letdown, so who knows? Hope for the Lions to get the upset.
Last but certainly not least, right after the Packers and Ravens finish their game, Tampa Bay (10-3) will be hosting New Orleans (6-7) on Sunday night.
The Packers already have the Saints to thank for one of the Bucs' losses, and they're squarely in the mix for a wild-card berth as well, so they have plenty to play for. Can the Saints get a season sweep of the Buccaneers, which might set the stage for a third meeting between these two teams in January? It'll be interesting to see.