NFC Wildcard Update: Packers Still Control Their Own Destiny

M. S.Correspondent IDecember 23, 2009

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 13: Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball after intercepting a pass against the Chicago Bears as teammate Nick Collins #36 moves up the field at Soldier Field on December 13, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After one of the more heart-breaking regular season losses for the Packers this decade, the NFC Wild Card picture became a tad bit fuzzier as the Cowboys defeated the Saints and the Giants took care of business on Monday night against the Redskins.

While the Packers still control their own destiny and can secure a playoff spot by winning their last two games against NFC West foes Seattle and Arizona, here's a look at what the Packers are hoping will happen over the course of the next two weeks to ensure they play past the first weekend of January.

The Saints need just one more win to clinch the first overall seed in the NFC and should get it as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday and then travel to Carolina to close out the season. Should they beat Tampa Bay, they would be able to rest their starters in Week 17 with no undefeated season on the line.

The Saints do not affect the Packers all that much and it's all but ensured they will gain the top seed.

With two losses in the last three weeks on the road, the Minnesota Vikings are hoping they can hang on to the second seed in the NFC in order to pick up a bye and avoid going on the road until the NFC Championship game. 

The road to get there will not be an easy one as the Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the in-division rival Bears, and then match up against the Giants who will, more than likely, be playing for something.

Packers fans should cheer for the Bears next week so the Eagles can challenge the Vikings for that first round bye and have something to play for in Week 17 against the Cowboys. Philadelphia hosts Denver this weekend with the chance to tie the Vikings for the number two seed, if the Vikings were to lose.

Tie-breaking procedures say that the Eagles would jump the Vikings based on the third tiebreaker of record vs. common opponents. The Eagles would be 5-0 while the Vikings (assuming they lost to the Bears) would be 2-2 with the Giants in Week 17.

Then comes the Arizona Cardinals, who sit at 9-5 and are all but set on where they will land in the playoffs. Barring a major collapse from both the Vikings and Eagles, the Cardinals will not have a first round bye. They host the St. Louis Rams in Week 16 and then stay at home to battle the Packers to finish the season.

The interesting note is that in Week 17, the Packers and Cardinals will kick off at 3:15 CST while the Eagles and Vikings play at noon. So the Cardinals will know if they have anything to play for when they hit the field in Arizona in Week 17. Once again, Packers fans should cheer for the Eagles to win out so that the Cardinals are entrenched in the fourth spot with nothing to play for when they take on the Packers.

The Eagles winning next week also means the Vikings will have to play to win, regardless, in Week 17 when they take on the Giants. This also helps the Packers because the Giants have the tiebreaker over them due to the common opponent tiebreaker.

One team the Packers need to just stay even with are the Cowboys, who the Packers defeated back in Week Nine. Dallas goes to Washington this weekend before closing out the season at home against the Eagles. Once again, if the Eagles can beat the Broncos in Week 16 they will have something to play for against Dallas, knowing a first round bye could be on the line.

Simply put, the Packers need to stay even with the Cowboys or top the Giants in the standings to get in. A win this weekend combined with a Cowboys OR Giants loss would ensure the Packers a playoff spot. Their Week 17 game against the Cardinals being played late is huge for the Packers, because they will know what they have to do in order to either make the playoffs or move up to the fifth seed.

The way things are shaping up (and are sure to be completely jumbled this time next week), the Packers should be playing a 10-5 Cardinals team that can not catch the Eagles in the standings for third place. Unless Minnesota loses their last two games, Arizona can't catch them either.

For the sake of their fans' brains, let's hope the Packers win their last two games and make everything a whole lot easier for everyone.