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Packers Set On Upset


On paper, at least, the Green Bay Packers will head into Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday as the underdog.

After a 12-4 regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles are the NFC's top seed in the playoffs. And while a Packers victory is far from impossible, since 1990 -- when the NFL playoff system was restructured into its current form -- no No. 1 NFC seed has ever lost a divisional playoff game.

Moreover, in that 13-year span, only twice have the top two NFC seeds failed to advance to the conference championship game, most recently when the No. 3 Eagles upset the No. 2 Chicago Bears in 2001, before that when the No. 3 Packers bested the No. 2 San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

All of which goes to show that regular-season success can bring postseason rewards, the biggest of which might be the first-round bye.

"I guess it depends on where you're sitting," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Monday as he analyzed the Packers' playoff positioning.

"If I had the bye, I'd be saying the bye is the way to go. And now that we won a playoff game (Sunday) in very emotional fashion, I like the energy of that. So it just depends on where you're sitting on what you favor and how it's working for you."

It would be hard to argue against the Eagles' spot in the bracket, what with the 24-2 record of NFC teams coming off playoff byes. But the Packers' momentum is hard to ignore.

Winners of five straight and seven of their last eight, the Packers are coming off a thrilling 33-27 come-from-behind victory against the Seattle Seahawks that only added to the notion that they're a team peaking at the right time.

"Somebody's going to have to play a really good game to beat us," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "I think if we play well, we'll take our chances and right now we're playing pretty good football."

While top seeds have reigned supreme on the NFC side of the bracket, a quick glance at recent AFC playoff results should give the Packers confidence.

Only six times in the last 13 seasons have both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds advanced to the AFC Championship.

Meanwhile, six teams seeded No. 4 or lower have won divisional playoff games in the AFC, including two that went on to be Super Bowl champions (Baltimore 2000, Denver 1997) and two others that were Super Bowl runners-up (Tennessee 1999, Buffalo 1992).

All of which goes to show that a week off in the playoffs and homefield advantage don't mean everything.

"I think momentum is a big factor and the way your team perceives itself," Sherman said. "I think our team perceives itself in a very confident fashion. I think they're also very realistic.

"They know that anybody at any time can beat us. And they believe that we can beat anybody. But we have to have an 'A' game ready to go week in and week out at this time of year."

The Packers and Eagles met once before this season, with Philadelphia coming from behind at Lambeau Field to win 17-14 in overtime in a game that saw three Packers turnovers and four additional fumbles they were fortunate to recover.

Sherman theorized that the Eagles will be a different team Sunday than the one the Packers saw in early November, but the Packers have changed in two months as well, starting with the fumble ratio that has dropped from 1.6 per game to 0.5.

"I know there was tremendous disappointment we didn't win the game because we lost in the last couple of minutes," Sherman said. "But I was proud of the way we played ... I was disappointed we lost and how we lost at the end, but I thought we played a heck of a ballgame, as did Philly.

"It was unfortunate somebody had to lose ... When two good teams fight with each other to win a football game it can go either way. That one didn't go our way."

Maybe this one will.

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