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Sunday, December 19, 2010
Packers' playoff chances brighten suddenly

By Kevin Seifert

OK. Many of you are asking how a wild afternoon in the NFC has impacted the Green Bay Packers' postseason chances. The short answer: It's been a good day for your club.

Last-play losses by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants have left the Packers in this situation: No matter what happens in Sunday night's game against the New England Patriots, they can clinch at least a wild-card playoff berth by winning their final two games of the season. Both games -- against the Giants in Week 16 and the Chicago Bears in the regular-season finale -- will be played at Lambeau Field.

(To see for yourself, be sure to make use of ESPN.com's awesome Playoff Machine.)

The Packers could lose out on the NFC North title if they lose to the Patriots and the Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. But even if that happens, the Packers will still be assured of a clear path to the playoffs.

Because of Sunday's results, the Packers would hold tiebreakers over both the Bucs and Giants if all three teams finish the season 10-6. The Packers would also win a tiebreaker in a two-way battle with either team -- the Bucs based on strength of victory and the Giants based on head-to-head matchup.

Defeating the Giants and Bears in consecutive weeks is an unenviable task. But given how this season has gone for the Packers, it's a fortuitous opportunity: Two games on your home field to make it to the proverbial dance.