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Packers control playoff destiny

Nov. 6, 2013 11:15 AM
 
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This much we know about the Packers’ playoff prospects: they control their own destiny. Even though the Packers (8-4) are currently the No. 7 seed in the NFC and wouldn’t qualify if the playoffs started today, they remain in a favorable position. If the Packers win out, they will capture the NFC North title, no matter what the Chicago Bears (9-3) do in their next three games. In addition, the Packers would claim the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye. That’s because the Packers own a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Philadelphia (8-4). We are assuming the winner of the NFC South, either Atlanta (10-2) or New Orleans (9-3), will claim the No. 1 seed. But the second-place finisher in that division will have to settle for the No. 5 seed that goes to the wild-card team with the best record, even if it’s better than the Packers’ final mark. Here’s what else we know: if the Packers beat the Detroit Lions next week and the Bears in the season finale on Jan. 2, Green Bay will win any and all tiebreakers over Chicago. To put it another way, the Bears will either have to finish with a better record than the Packers, or beat them in the season finale in order to capture the NFC North crown. The Bears currently hold a one-game edge over the Packers in the NFC North, thanks to their 20-17 victory over Green Bay in September at Soldier Field. Here are the tiebreakers that will determine the division champion if the two teams finish in a tie: 1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs). Obviously, the Packers must beat the Bears on Jan. 2 at Lambeau Field to have any chance in a tiebreaker scenario. 2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division. The Bears are 4-0 in the division; the Packers are 3-1. A Packers’ win over the Bears would even the score. Both teams have one other division game: the Packers play at Detroit next week; the Bears play at Minnesota in two weeks. 3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games. The Packers and Bears are deadlocked at 7-2 against common opponents. If the tiebreaker falls to this category, both teams would be guaranteed to finish with the same record against common teams. 4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference. The Bears are 7-3 against NFC teams; the Packers are 6-3. By virtue of the Packers’ projected win over the Bears in the season finale, the Packers will pick up a game in this category. 5. Strength of victory. This measures the quality of the Bears’ and Packers’ victories, based on their opponents’ records. Assuming the Bears and Packers win out leading up to the season finale, this category will be decided by the Bears’ wins over the Panthers (1-11) and Dolphins (6-6), compared to the Packers’ wins over the 49ers (4-8) and Giants (8-4), because the Bears’ and Packers’ other victories were against common teams. Thus, the Packers would win the tiebreaker because the teams they beat would own a better overall record than the teams the Bears beat. 6. Strength of schedule. The Bears and Packers have played only two different opponents this season. On the Bears’ schedule were the Panthers (1-11) and Seahawks (6-6), while the Packers played the Falcons (10-2) and 49ers (4-8). The Falcons’ impressive record, and the Panthers pitiful mark, gives the Packers the tougher schedule and edge in this tiebreaker. So let’s play a game of what-if as it relates to the Packers’ and Bears’ remaining schedules, and assuming the Packers beat the Bears in the season finale. Here are the schedules … Bears: New England, at Minnesota, New York Jets, at Green Bay. Packers: at Detroit, at New England, New York Giants, Chicago. *If both teams win their next three games … both will finish 12-4, the head-to-head matchup is 1-1, both will have 5-1 division records, both will have 10-2 records against common opponents, but the Packers will hold the edge in conference records: 9-3 vs. the Bears’ 8-4. Thus, the Packers will be declared division champs. *If both teams post 2-1 records in their next three games, with the Bears beating the Vikings and losing to either the Jets or Pats; and the Packers beating the Lions and Giants but losing to the Pats … both will finish 11-5, both will have 5-1 division records, both will have 9-3 records against common opponents, and the Packers will once again have a one-game lead in conference record (9-3 vs. 8-4) and be declared division champs. *If both teams go 2-1 in their next three games, with the Bears beating the Vikings and losing to either the Jets or Pats; and the Packers beating the Lions and Pats but losing to the Giants … both will finish 11-5; both will have 5-1 division records, both will have 9-3 records against common opponents; both will have 8-4 conference records; the Packers will win the tiebreaker based on strength of victory, meaning their wins over the Eagles (8 victories), Bills (2), Lions twice (2), Vikings twice (5), Jets (9), Cowboys (4), 49ers (4), Patriots (9) and Bears (9) is better than the Bears’ wins over the Lions twice (2), Cowboys (4), Packers (8), Panthers (1), Bills (2), Vikings twice (5), Dolphins (6), Eagles (8) and either Pats or Jets (9). Total victories by Packers’ opponents is 59. Total victories by Bears’ opponents is 52. The only tiebreaker scenario I have uncovered, in which the Packers beat the Bears in the season finale and Chicago wins the tiebreaker, is this one: A Packers’ loss to the Lions next week, coupled with a Bears’ win over the Vikings in two weeks, would give the Bears the edge in division record, 5-1 to 4-2.

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Get Green Bay Packers updates as they happen from our reporting team: (from left) Mike Vandermause, Wes Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty.
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