Forget all those scenarios involving teams still trying to make it to the NFL playoffs. The highlight of the final week of the regular season is the history that will be played out in Green Bay today.
That history, of course, belongs to the Detroit Lions, who already are the first team to go 0-15 in a season. Now they will complete the first perfectly winless season if they lose to the Packers.
“When you think about it like that it almost seems impossible,” the Lions’ Dominic Raiola said. “But anything can happen. This team’s got enough to beat Green Bay.”
True at one level because the Lions have had their share of close calls, including two tight games with Minnesota, which is a win away from clinching their NFC North division. But in their first meeting with the Packers this season, the Lions gave up 48 points.
Green Bay is a disappointment itself.
While quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been alright in replacing Brett Favre, its defense has been bad and it is just 5-10 after reaching the NFC Championship game last season. But it won’t be ready to pack it in — the more the Lions have lost, the more their opponents have feared being the first to lose to them.
The only other team to finish a season winless was Tampa Bay, which went 0-14 in 1976. But those Buccaneers were a new team; these Lions are anything but — they’ve been in the NFL in some form since 1930 as the Portsmouth Spartans.
The Packers managed to lose 20-17 in overtime to Chicago last Monday, their fifth straight loss in a game they controlled for most of the way. So coach Mike McCarthy just wants a win and isn’t concerned about history.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of outside media attention around the situation, but we’re not going to spend any time on that,” the Packers coach said. “We have no control of that. We have no input on that. We have no opinion on it.”
There are three playoff berths open in the AFC and two in the NFC in the NFL’s final weekend.
In the AFC, Tennessee has won the South and has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs; Pittsburgh has won the North and has a first-round bye; and Indianapolis has a wild-card spot and the fifth seed.
The winner of the Denver-San Diego game takes the West; Miami wins the East if it beats the New York Jets at the Meadowlands; and Baltimore gets the second wild-card spot if it wins at home against Jacksonville.
New England gets the East title if it wins in Buffalo and the Jets beat the Dolphins, and it can get a wild card if it wins and Baltimore loses. If the Jets win and New England loses, New York wins the East. If the Jets and New England both win, New York can get a wild card if Baltimore loses.
In the NFC, the New York Giants have won the East and clinched home-field advantage throughout. Arizona has won the West and both Carolina and Atlanta have qualified for the playoffs but don’t know where they will be seeded.
If Carolina wins in New Orleans, it will be the NFC South champion and get a bye as the No. 2 seed. Atlanta, which is the No. 5 seed in that case, can win the South if it beats St Louis at home and Carolina loses. Then Carolina will be the No. 5 seed.
Minnesota can win the North by beating the Giants at home or if Chicago loses in Houston.
Dallas can get the second wild-card spot by winning in Philadelphia. If it loses and Tampa Bay beats Oakland at home, it gets the berth. If the Buccaneers and Dallas lose, Chicago can get it by winning. If Tampa Bay and Chicago lose, Philadelphia get in by beating Dallas. Philadelphia also can get in if Tampa Bay falls and Chicago wins and Minnesota loses, because that would give Chicago the title in the North.