MINNEAPOLIS – The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North Division on Monday night and took a huge step toward earning a first-round bye and divisional-round home game by beating the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.
With one week to go, San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans are 12-3. The first tiebreaker is conference record. The 49ers and Packers have two conference losses to three for New Orleans, so that would kick the Saints into the wild card round. San Francisco, by virtue of its blowout win over Green Bay last month, would have the No. 1 seed.
The Packers, however, have a decent chance of getting the No. 1 seed. First, they must beat slumping Detroit, which is down to its third-string quarterback. In the prime-time game, San Francisco plays at Seattle (11-4). If the Seahawks win, they would win the division at 12-4. That would leave Green Bay and (potentially) New Orleans as the only 13-win teams, with Green Bay winning on the conference-record tiebreaker.
Either way, if it can beat the Lions, Green Bay will get a first-round bye and a divisional-round home game. That would be huge. First and foremost, getting to skip a round is a big deal in the loaded NFC. Second, it would mean a potential playoff game against the dome-loving Saints rather than a trip to the Superdome.
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Being a part of that 2010 team and having to win three games on the road, that’s a tough way to go. Especially with how deep this playoffs in the NFC is, it’s nice to have a chance to have some games at home. I said this earlier in the season, just getting in gives you a legitimate shot but knowing that we could have two home games to get somewhere special changes the whole dynamic, especially with the type of temperatures that we expect in Green Bay and the way that we’ve over the years played at home.”
Here are the big games for Week 17:
Green Bay (12-3) at Detroit (3-11-1): Since starting 2-0-1, the Lions are 1-11 in their last 12 games with eight consecutive losses. With Matthew Stafford on injured reserve, No. 3 quarterback David Blough has completed 56.6 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, five interceptions and a 68.8 rating in two starts.
New Orleans (12-3) at Carolina (5-10): Don’t hold your breath for an upset from the Panthers, whose seven-game losing streak started at Green Bay. The Panthers also are using their third-string quarterback, Will Grier. A third-round pick, he made his first NFL start last week at Indianapolis. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 224 yards with zero touchdowns, three interceptions and a 46.0 rating as the Panthers were drubbed 38-6.
San Francisco (12-3) at Seattle (11-4): The Seahawks were in command of the No. 1 seed until being stunned at home by Arizona, 27-13. Seattle, with a legendary home-field advantage, is just 4-3 at home. The Seahawks won at San Francisco in overtime, 27-24, on Nov. 11, so would win the division with a victory. Neither team is playing well. Seattle has lost two of its last three while San Francisco is 2-2 since blasting the Packers.
Other games of note:
Chicago (7-8) at Minnesota (10-5): After a three-game winning streak, Chicago has dropped two in a row. The Bears beat the Vikings 16-6 in Week 4. Minnesota entered Monday’s game against Green Bay as the NFL’s only undefeated home team. Chicago is 3-4 on the road. It won at Minnesota last year to break a six-game road losing streak in the series.
Washington (3-12) at Dallas (7-8): The Cowboys were in control of the NFC East until losing 17-9 at Philadelphia on Sunday. They’ve lost four of their last five but can win the division with a victory and a loss by Philadelphia. Washington will be without rookie starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Philadelphia (8-7) at N.Y. Giants (4-11): The beat-up Eagles have survived a crushing list of injuries to win three consecutive games and get to the precipice of the division title. The Giants have won two in a row but those came against Miami and Washington.