GREEN BAY – It was destined to come down to the finale at Soldier Field, right?
Ever since the Saints lost to the Eagles in Week 14, the Packers have been in control of the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs. Back then, the scenario was Green Bay would get the top spot by winning its last three games.
Well, the Packers (12-3) have taken care of the first two but still need the last one. Beat the Bears (8-7) in Chicago on Sunday and the Packers get the No. 1 seed, which comes with the only playoff bye and, of course, home-field advantage.
There is still one other way, though, which will focus the scoreboard watching on the Seattle (11-4) at San Francisco (6-9) matchup. That will be taking place at the same time Green Bay and Chicago are going at it (3:25 p.m. CT kickoff).
The Packers can get the No. 1 seed, regardless of the result against the Bears, if San Francisco knocks off Seattle. So, obviously, cheer for the 49ers to beat the Seahawks.
But, even though it's not fun to talk about, what happens in a worst-case scenario, if the Packers lose and the Seahawks win?
Two things could occur, neither favorable. Green Bay could end up in a three-way tie with New Orleans and Seattle for the top spot at 12-4 if the Saints win, or the Packers could be in a two-way tie with the Seahawks if the Saints lose.
In either of those scenarios, the Packers lose the No. 1 seed. The Saints would win a three-way tiebreaker based on having the best conference record, while the Seahawks would win a two-way tiebreaker with the Packers due to a better record in common games.
In the three-way tie, the Packers actually drop all the way to the No. 3 seed, so the New Orleans (11-4) at Carolina (5-10) game could still impact Green Bay's playoff position. Therefore, it still behooves Packers fans to root for the Panthers to upset the Saints.
In any scenario, the top three seeds will belong to Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans, in some order.
The rest of the Week 17 slate can't affect the Packers directly but will determine who else joins the NFC playoff field.
This is what it boils down to: Chicago, Arizona and the LA Rams are fighting for two wild-card spots (Tampa Bay is already in as a wild card, and would get the No. 5 seed with a win), while Washington, Dallas and the NY Giants are battling for the NFC East title, which earns the No. 4 seed.
Chicago is playing for its season on Sunday, needing a win over Green Bay to clinch a wild-card spot. But Bears fans also will be watching Arizona (8-7) at the LA Rams (9-6), because the Bears can still get in the playoffs if the Rams win, no matter what happens against the Packers.
So, those who would like to see Chicago make the playoffs regardless should pull for the Rams, who just lost starting QB Jared Goff to a broken thumb. Those who would prefer the Bears not make the postseason at all would favor the Cardinals.
The winner of the NFC East is locked into the No. 4 seed, and it'll come down to the final game of the regular season on Sunday night, Washington (6-9) at Philadelphia (4-10-1).
If Washington wins, it's in. If not, the winner of the noon CT kickoff between Dallas (6-9) at New York (5-10).