Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 19 News List

NFL's wild-card berths to be settled today, tomorrow

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre waves to spectators as he leaves the field following the Packers' 9-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings during their NFL football game on Dec. 21 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Green Bay's game against the Chicago Bears tomorrow could mark the last game of Favre's career.

PHOTO: AP

The National Football League regular season concludes with a mad dash for the playoffs this weekend, with 11 teams still chasing three postseason berths.

The New York Giants will be first off the mark. Despite losing six of their last seven games, they can virtually clinch the last National Football Conference wild card with a win over the Washington Redskins today.

There are four other teams in the NFC with 7-8 records -- the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams -- and the Giants hold the tiebreaker over all of them.

Only the Packers can beat New York in an unlikely tiebreaker based on strength of victories.

If the Giants win today, then Atlanta, Carolina and St. Louis will be eliminated from playoff contention before their games tomorrow.

The Packers would know before they take the field at Chicago tomorrow if they have a chance to win a tiebreaker.

That would only be the case if hapless Detroit upsets the playoff-bound Cowboys and Minnesota beats St. Louis.

That game in Chicago has also drawn attention as the possible NFL finale for Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.

A future Hall of Famer, Favre is closing in on Dan Marino's all-time record for touchdown passes. But Favre, the NFL's only three-time MVP and an eight-time Pro Bowler, contemplated retirement after last season and did not make his decision to return until late April.

In 15 years with the Packers, Favre has led the Packers to 10 postseason appearances, including six division titles, back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1996 and 1997 and one championship.

But the Giants remain the most likely to complete the NFC playoff lineup. They could even make the playoffs with a 7-9 record if Green Bay, Atlanta, Carolina and St. Louis all lose.

Even so, it's hardly what the Giants envisioned when they put up a 6-2 record in the season's first half.

Coach Tom Coughlin heard chants of "Fire Coughlin" after last week's 30-7 loss to New Orleans.

So Coughlin reacted by stripping offensive coordinator John Hufnagel of his play-calling duties on Tuesday and handing them over to quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride for today's game.

"There's no doubt that our offensive team needs a change, needs a spark," Coughlin said.

The two AFC wild-card spots are also up for grabs on the final Sunday of the season.

The Denver Broncos and New York Jets, both with 9-6 records, can punch their tickets with victories. The Broncos host the San Francisco 49ers and the Jets face the lowly Oakland Raiders.

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