As far as the Green Bay Packers' goals of making the post-season are concerned, things couldn't have gone any better than they did Sunday.
Not only did the Packers move to move to 8-6 with a 38-21 win over the San Diego Chargers, meanwhile the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears while the Seattle Seahawks fell to the St. Louis Rams.
The Vikings loss moved the Packers into a tie for first place in the NFC North, while the Seahawks loss moved the Packers into a tie for the NFC's second Wild Card spot.
So now what?
If the Packers, Seahawks and Vikings win out, the Packers would find themselves in the post-season, but as a Wild Card team, not as a division champion.
The Packers and Vikings may have an equal numbers of overall wins and losses, but the Vikings own the edge in the NFC North by virtue of tiebreaker procedures -- specifically conference wins, where the Vikings hold a one-game edge having one fewer NFC loss than the Packers with one conference game remaining.
In terms of the Wild Card however, the Packers hold the edge over Seattle because they beat the Seahawks in their only head-to-head match-up of the season back in Week 5.
With two regular-season weeks remaining, the Packers' advantage in the playoff race could disappear as quickly as it materialized Sunday. But the Packers are now almost entirely in control of their own destiny.
Barring a three-way tie with Dallas (9-5) and Seattle (8-6) -- a tie with Seattle alone is okay -- the Packers are assured at least a Wild Card spot.
However, since Wild Card teams are sent on the road to start the playoffs, a more attractive option would be to overcome Minnesota and win the NFC North. As division-winners, the Packers would be able to host at least their first-round playoff game at Lambeau Field.
So what has to happen for the Packers to win the division?
Obviously the easiest way to win the NFC North would be to finish with a better record than Minnesota, and to do that the Vikings have to lose at least one of their remaining games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals.
The only way the Packers win a tiebreaker against Minnesota would be if the Vikings lose to Arizona, thus evening the teams' records against NFC opponents.
At that point, the tiebreaker procedure moves to the next set of determiners which is strength of victory -- a number that won't be finalized until the end of the season.
Over the last 10 seasons the Packers have made it to the playoffs all but twice.
Breaking Down The Division Tie
Note: At present, some websites are reporting that the Packers own the tie-breaker against the Vikings because they have a better record against common opponents, which is the third criterion for breaking division ties between two teams (after head-to-head records and won-lost percentage against division opponents).
What those breakdowns fail to take into consideration however is that record against common opponents will be moot by the end of the season, because the Packers and Vikings have already played their two games against uncommon opponents this season and went 1-1: the Packers defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Vikings defeated the Atlanta Falcons and lost to the New York Giants.
In other words, the Packers may hold the edge over the Vikings against common opponents at present, but Minnesota has yet to play the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals, two teams the Packers went 0-2 against, while the Packers have yet to play the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, teams the Vikings went 1-1 against.
Thus, by the end of the season -- when it matters -- if the Vikings and Packers are tied overall, their records against common opponents will be identical.
The next tie-breaking criterion record against conference opponents. In order for the Vikings (7-4) and Packers (7-5) to tie on that mark, the Vikings must lose to the Cardinals in the final week of the regular season.