When will Packers know divisional playoff opponent? Take it a game at a time

NFC Wild Card schedule sequence adds to suspense


GREEN BAY – The Packers might find out who's coming to Lambeau Field for the NFC Divisional playoff as early as mid-afternoon Sunday.

Then again, Green Bay might not know until the conference's third and final wild-card contest finishes late Monday night.

The wild-card round sets up as a somewhat suspenseful game-at-a-time tracker to see who's next for the Packers, because as the NFC's No. 1 seed, they'll play the lowest remaining seed after the first round of games.

It just so happens the conference's wild-card games are being played in reverse-seed order as they pertain to the Packers' possibilities, so it's fairly easy to process. Here's the rundown of the schedule, with playoff seeds in parentheses (all times Central):

(7) Philadelphia Eagles at (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, noon Sunday

(6) San Francisco 49ers at (3) Dallas Cowboys, 3:30 p.m. Sunday

(5) Arizona Cardinals at (4) Los Angeles Rams, 7:15 p.m. Monday

With someone seeded 4 through 7 coming to Lambeau on either Jan. 22 or 23, the Packers will not play either the Buccaneers or Cowboys in the divisional round. Those teams are potential Green Bay opponents only for the NFC title game, should the Packers get there.

But first things first, learning the divisional foe and then preparing next week to play with the season on the line.

So, beginning Sunday afternoon, with the seventh-seeded Eagles playing first, if they win that opening NFC wild-card game, the suspense is over. Philly will be visiting Green Bay.

If Tampa Bay wins, then the next game could determine the Packers' opponent. A win by San Francisco would send the 49ers here, and there's no more waiting around.

The longest-wait scenario occurs, though, if the Buccaneers and Cowboys both win. In that case, those two teams would meet next week in one NFC Divisional game, and the Packers would host the Cardinals-Rams winner in the other.

As for exactly when those divisional games would be played, the league has said the schedule for Jan. 22-23 will be announced at some point during the weekend. Sunday evening is a good bet.

Presumably, the winner of the Cardinals-Rams game would play the following Sunday to avoid a rather unfair Monday-to-Saturday turnaround for one of the conference's final four.

But any other assumptions would probably be foolhardy, including that the home teams have any significant advantage this weekend.

Dating back to 2012, road teams in the NFC Wild Card games are 11-8, with the Packers being both a home victim (San Francisco in '13) and a road winner (Washington in '15) over this stretch. Only once in the last six years, and two of the last nine, have the home teams turned in a sweep in the NFC's first round.

So take it one game at a time this weekend, and see what happens.


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