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The Packers are officially playoff bound after clinching the NFC North on Sunday, secured with a 31-30 win over the Baltimore Ravens. It's the Packers' third straight division title and eighth title in the 11 seasons since their last Super Bowl triumph.
As a division winner, the Packers are guaranteed a top-four seed and a home playoff game. The question of when and which opponent remains a mystery. If Green Bay maintains that top seed, it will skip over wild-card weekend (Jan. 15-17) and proceed directly to the divisional round Jan. 22-23.
Here are some things to know about the tiebreaking procedures and where the Packers stand.
What do the Packers need to do to clinch the No. 1 seed?
The Packers have a one-game lead over everybody else in the NFC, so if the Packers win their last three games, they're guaranteed No. 1. If the Packers lose once, they'll almost certainly need Dallas to lose once more. If the Packers lose twice, it's technically possible, but don't bet on it.
The Packers have essentially wrapped up a tiebreaking edge over Tampa Bay and already have a head-to-head tiebreaker against Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams.
Why does Green Bay have a tiebreaking edge over Tampa Bay, since they don't play each other this season?
Green Bay now has a two-game lead in the first tiebreaker that matters between the two teams, record against NFC opponents (Green Bay has two losses against NFC teams, while Tampa Bay has four losses). The Bucs can still finish with a better record than the Packers, but if they tie, the only way for the Bucs to catch Green Bay in the NFC-opponent tiebreaker is for the Packers to lose to the Lions and Vikings (while Tampa sweeps its two remaining games against Carolina). Even then, the Packers would have the edge in the next tiebreaker, record vs. common opponents.
The only way Tampa finishes seeded ahead of the Packers is if Green Bay loses those two division games and winds up in a three-way tie. There's one scenario involving Arizona where it comes down to strength of victory, and the Packers basically sit in a dead heat with Tampa Bay, but that's an extremely volatile tiebreaker that's hard to predict.
If the season ended today, who would the Packers face in the playoffs?
Green Bay would hold the No. 1 seed and would get a first-round bye, then face the worst remaining seed in the divisional round. If the division winners all prevailed in the first round, that would pit the Packers against the Arizona Cardinals.
How do we get Mike McCarthy to Lambeau in the playoffs?
If the season ended today, Dallas would hold the No. 2 seed, and the No. 1 Packers wouldn't have a chance to host the Cowboys until the NFC championship game.
Dallas sits one game back of Green Bay but does hold a tiebreaking edge in that only one of its losses have been to an NFC team (the Packers have suffered two such losses). Thus, if the Packers lost again and Dallas won out, the Cowboys would get the head-to-head edge on the tiebreaker of conference record. But if the Packers finish the season 3-0, there won't be any road playoff games for Green Bay (unless, technically, they wind up against the Chargers in the "neutral" Super Bowl venue of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles).
Among the top teams, who has the easiest schedule going forward?
The Packers have to love what they see ahead, though the Buccaneers have a very soft schedule left. Here's a look.
Green Bay Packers (current No. 1 seed, 11-3)
vs. Cleveland (7-7)
vs. Minnesota (7-7)
at Detroit (2-11-1)
It's easy to imagine the Packers sweeping these games, though Minnesota tripped up Green Bay the first time around. Cleveland has been decimated by COVID-19 and other injuries and desperately needs a win on Christmas to stay afloat. Green Bay knows if it wins out, it's the top seed. But if it loses, the next team is poised to jump in.
Dallas Cowboys (current No. 2 seed, 10-4)
vs. Washington (6-8)
vs. Arizona (10-4)
at Philadelphia (7-7)
The Cowboys are dominating the East and are one favorable outcome away from clinching the division. Dallas currently owns the No. 2 seed but has lost only one NFC game and could easily slide past the Packers if Green Bay loses. However, Dallas doesn't have a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucs (it jumps ahead of Tampa here because it's in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and currently has the NFC record tiebreaker among those teams). It's not a cupcake schedule going forward, but don't count out the Cowboys for that top seed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (current No. 3 seed, 10-4)
at Carolina (5-9)
at New York Jets (3-11)
vs. Carolina (5-9)
Tampa has the head-to-head edge over Dallas for the No. 2 seed but doesn't get the edge in the current three-way scenario. The Panthers have lost four straight and five of six, so they're not looking like much of an obstacle at this point. The Jets, meanwhile, are ... yeah. It wouldn't be wise to expect the Bucs to lose again this season.
Arizona Cardinals (current No. 4 seed, 10-4)
vs. Indianapolis (8-6)
at Dallas (10-4)
vs. Seattle (5-9)
Remember when Arizona was 7-0 before that first loss to the Packers? Times have changed, and a hideous loss to Detroit on Sunday suggests this team is running out of gas, and the schedule ahead doesn't exactly offer a reprieve. That Rams have pulled into a tie with Arizona in the West, though the Cardinals will still have control thanks to their better divisional record.
Los Angeles Rams (current No. 5 seed, 10-4)
at Minnesota (7-7)
at Baltimore (8-6)
vs. San Francisco (8-6)
The Rams are now deadlocked with the Cardinals in the NFC West standings thanks to Arizona's loss to Detroit. L.A, has looked impressive since falling against the Packers on Nov. 28, but both NFC West contenders have toughies remaining on the schedule.
What if there's a three-way or four-way tie?
These tiebreakers are a little hard to forecast because they often depend on which losses a team will take.
If Green Bay ties with Dallas and Tampa Bay, because Green Bay loses once and the other two win out, Dallas gets the top seed (NFC record tiebreaker) and the Packers get the No. 2 (also NFC record tiebreaker).
If Green Bay ties with Arizona and Tampa Bay, because the Packers lost once and the other two won out, the Packers get the top seed (NFC record tiebreaker).
If Green Bay ties with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, because the Packers lost once and the other two won out, the Packers get the top seed (NFC record tiebreaker rules out Tampa Bay, and Packers win head-to-head with Rams).
If Green Bay ties with Dallas and Los Angeles (or Arizona), because the Packers lost once and the other two won out, Dallas gets the top seed (NFC record tiebreaker), and the Packers beat the Rams (or Cardinals) on head-to-head for the No. 2.
If Green Bay ties with Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Dallas, because Green Bay lost once and everyone else won out, Dallas gets the No. 1 (NFC record tiebreaker), and the No. 2 goes to Green Bay if the Packers' loss came against Cleveland. Otherwise, it will again come down to strength of victory between L.A., Green Bay and Tampa.
Arizona wouldn't be part of a four-team tiebreaker in this scenario because one of its games is against Dallas (meaning the Cowboys and Cardinals can't both win out).
Los Angeles and Arizona won't both be part of a multi-team tiebreaker; one will be declared the NFC West winner and then battle it out with the other division champs for seeding.
Who are the potential lower seeds that the Packers might face in the first round?
Current No. 6: San Francisco (8-6). Green Bay won on the road early in the season, 30-28, though the 49ers won four of their next five before losing to Seattle two weeks ago, followed by two more wins to move into the current No. 6 spot. This isn't a team anyone wants to face in the playoffs. The 49ers close the year against the Titans (9-5), Texans (3-11) and Rams (10-4).
Current No. 7: Minnesota (7-7). The Vikings took care of the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday and still have the Bears at home on the schedule, plus the Rams at home and the Packers at Lambeau. For now, Minnesota has the tiebreaker over New Orleans for the final playoff spot because of NFC record and edges out Philadelphia because of a better record against common opponents. Could the Vikings and Packers meet for a third time this season in the opening round of the playoffs if the Packers slide to No. 2?
Philadelphia (7-7). Many of the Eagles' losses (49ers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Bucs, Raiders, Chargers) have come against playoff-worthy competition, with a setback against the Giants as the ugliest loss. The Eagles still have a pretty fair shot to get into the top seven, with Dallas, the Giants and Washington still to go.
New Orleans (7-7). A shutout win over the Bucs on Monday night has greatly boosted the Saints' chances, but the Saints are still behind the Vikings and Eagles on NFC record tiebreaker.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect Monday and Tuesday's results.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: NFC playoff standings: How Green Bay Packers can secure the No. 1 seed