Washington (AFP) – Green Bay, Detroit, Washington and Tampa Bay will chase playoff berths in Sunday’s final NFL regular-season games while four other clubs try to join Dallas and New England with first-round byes.
The Detroit Lions entertain Green Bay with the Packers on a five-game win streak and both teams deadlocked at 9-6 atop the NFC North division. The winner takes the crown and a home playoff game while the loser could miss the playoffs.
“Everything that we have accomplished up until this point — the five-game win streak, pushing through adversity — doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take care of business on Sunday,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
“We have to keep this thing going. It starts in Detroit and hopefully continues on after that.”
The Washington Redskins (8-6 with a draw) would reach the playoffs by defeating the New York Giants (10-5) as long as the Packers and Lions don’t finish in a draw, which would send Detroit and Green Bay into the playoffs, as would a Washington loss.
Tampa Bay (8-7) remains a longshot needing to beat Carolina (6-9) and have six other games fall exactly right, an unlikely scenario that includes a Redskins-Giants draw.
The remainder of the playoff lineup is set, though not the exact seeding order.
In the National Conference, the Dallas Cowboys (13-2) will have a home-field edge with Atlanta (10-5) and Seattle (9-5 with a draw) chasing the other first-round bye.
A Falcons’ victory over New Orleans (7-8) will put Atlanta into the spot but a loss would allow Seattle to claim the week off by defeating San Francisco (2-13).
The Giants (10-5) will be an NFC wildcard team and play on the road to open the playoffs as the fifth seed no matter what happens Sunday.
In the American Conference, New England (13-2) would clinch the home-field advantage by beating Miami (10-5) with the Oakland Raiders (12-3) able to swipe that edge if the Patriots should falter by downing Denver (8-7).
The Raiders claim the AFC West crown with a victory but if they lose, Kansas City (11-4) can capture the division title and a first-round bye with a triumph at San Diego (5-10).
Pittsburgh (10-5) and Houston (9-6) have clinched first-round home playoff games regardless of what happens Sunday while Miami will be the road team in one of those contests.
– Rodgers, Stafford seize spotlight –
At Detroit, the showdown will focus on two of the NFL’s top passers in Green Bay’s Rodgers and the Lions’ Matthew Stafford. Rodgers has thrown for 4,128 yards and a league-high 36 touchdowns while Stafford has thrown for 3,980 yards and 22 touchdowns — completing at least 50 passes to five different receivers.
“Their passing game has definitely evolved,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They have gotten more people involved.”
The Packers, who beat Detroit 34-27 at Green Bay in September, will play in a domed stadium Sunday for the first time in two months.
“It’s definitely a challenge when you go over there,” said McCarthy. “I’ve always felt it was a very difficult place to play.”
Green Bay seeks an eighth consecutive playoff appearance, which would stretch a club record, while the Lions try to claim their first division title in 23 years despite coming into the finale off back-to-back losses.
“Even in the last ballgame, we still have an opportunity to control our own destiny,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
“Oftentimes, teams don’t get that opportunity, they haven’t earned that opportunity. Our guys have earned it. So yeah, I’m excited about where we are. You just don’t get in this position very often. I’m excited about the opportunity for our guys and I know our guys will be excited as well.”