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Black and Blue all over: Playoff scenarios

12/15/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
PHOENIX -- With the dust settled Monday morning, we can now take a look at the playoff scenarios for the NFC North's two eligible teams.

At 9-5, Minnesota's situation is unchanged from what we discussed Sunday night:

  • The Vikings' magic number is one. That means they will clinch the NFC North with their next victory or the Chicago Bears' next loss.

  • In case you're wondering, I've talked to some people who crunched the numbers on the Vikings' wild-card possibilities should they lose their final two games and cede the division to the Bears. We'll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say, the Vikings would have no realistic shot of a wild-card berth at 9-7.

At 8-6, Chicago's playoff scenarios are more complicated. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times lays out the Bears' situation here.

  • In order to win the NFC North, the Bears need to win their final two games while the Vikings lose their final two games. The Vikings win a tiebreaker at 10-6 or 9-7.

  • As for the wild card, it's difficult but not impossible. First, the Bears would need to win their final two games to finish 10-6. They would also need Tampa Bay, Dallas and Atlanta to lose their final two games. Philadelphia would have to lose once. There is a slight chance that the Bears could beat Dallas in a tiebreaker if both finish team finish 10-6, but that category -- strength of schedule -- can't be determined until the end of the regular season.

Whew. That's a lot of possibilities. But that's where things stand with two games remaining in the regular season.

We've got some traveling ahead of us later Monday morning, but for now let's take a spin around the division:

  • Green Bay displayed some jarring internal division during Sunday's 20-16 loss to Jacksonville. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has details on a near-fight between linebacker Brady Poppinga and cornerback Al Harris, along with some angry words from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy regarding rookie tight end Jermichael Finley.

  • Packers veteran Charles Woodson on the state of the team: "We're just not very good right now. I mean, you can point to a lot of different things, but bottom line, we're not a very good team." Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel agrees.

  • Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel writes that the Harris-Poppinga incident was typical, not unusual, for a defense that was in full dysfunction Sunday.

  • Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson caught a career-high nine passes in the Lions' 31-21 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press chronicles Johnson's day.

  • With his team two losses from 0-16, Lions coach Rod Marinelli isn't changing anything, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. Marinelli: "I'm gonna ask you a question: What should I do differently? ... If I could do anything differently to get a win -- first game or 50th game -- I'd do it. I mean, it's common sense for me. ... I'm not a guy who's gonna go, 'Oh, we gotta change this, this, this [and] this. It's panic time.' No, I'm not gonna do that. I'm just gonna do what I do."

  • Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson broke Robert Smith's record for most rushing yards in a season Sunday against Arizona. Peterson's 165 yards gives him 1,581 yards in 14 games, according to this Star Tribune notebook.

  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Somebody grab my tongue, I think I'm having a seizure. They finally played 60 minutes of dominating football just in time to get the folks back home all twitchy and excited about the playoffs."