At this stage of playoffs, Packers have control they've long wanted

A win brings the NFC title game to Lambeau Field for the first time in 13 years


GREEN BAY – There's not much left to figure out.

The NFC is down to four teams, and the Packers are one of them for the fifth time in the last seven years.

This opportunity is different, though.

Because for the first time in those last seven years, the top-seeded Packers are in the NFC Divisional round knowing if they win, they'll be hosting the NFC Championship Game.

That hasn't been the case since way back in 2011, when Green Bay had the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage but did not advance to host the conference title game.

In all their chances since then, the Packers either knew in advance if they won the divisional matchup they'd be on the road the next week, or they'd need help in order to be playing at home with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line.

The Packers won in 2014, '16 and last year, but never returned home. They traveled all three instances for the NFC title tilt and lost one game shy of the ultimate game.

This year it's all in front of them, with Saturday's 3:35 p.m. CT matchup with the No. 6 seed Rams all that's standing between a chance to host the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 13 years.

Certainly the teams in the other divisional playoff, the No. 5 Buccaneers and No. 2 Saints, who play Sunday at 5:40 p.m. CT in New Orleans, are rooting for Green Bay to lose. That would give the winner of the second NFC game home privileges for next week.

But if the Packers win, they'll know the other winner will be coming to Lambeau Field.

On the AFC side, the seeding matchups and scenarios are identical. The games are just being played in the opposite order.

No. 5 seed Baltimore is at No. 2 Buffalo on Saturday night (7:15 p.m. CT), with the winner hoping No. 6 Cleveland can knock off No. 1 Kansas City on Sunday (2:05 p.m. CT).

The Chiefs are in the same position as the Packers, knowing if they win they're at home next week. If the Browns win, the Ravens-Bills winner would host the AFC title game.


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