NFL: Today’s matchups
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 27, 2008
Forget all those scenarios involving teams still trying to make it to the postseason. 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. Now they can complete the first 0-16 season if they lose to the Packers.
“When you think about it like that it almost seems impossible,” center Dominic Raiola says. “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 game away from clinching the NFC North. But they won neither of those, nor any of the 13 other contests on their schedule, and gave up 48 points in their first meeting with the Packers at Ford Field.
Green Bay is a disappointment itself.
While Aaron Rodgers has been OK 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 ó 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 Bucs were an expansion team; these Lions are anything but ó they’ve been in the NFL in some form since 1930, when as the Portsmouth Spartans, they went 5-6-3 under the not-so-legendary Hal “Tubby” Griffen.
The Packers managed to lose 20-17 in overtime to Chicago on Monday night, their fifth straight loss in a game they controlled most of the way. So Mike McCarthy just wants a win and isn’t concerned about history.
“We’re going to treat the Lions no different than any other opponent we’re playing,” the Packers coach says.
“You talk about what you feel their strengths are and their weaknesses and how we’re going to attack them. 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. 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 Broncos-Chargers game in San Diego on Sunday night 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 the Ravens lose. If the Jets win and the Patriots lose, New York wins the East. If the Jets and Patriots both win, New York can get a wild card if the Ravens lose.
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 the Panthers win in New Orleans, they will be the NFC South champions 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 the Panthers 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 Bucs and Cowboys lose, the Bears can get it by winning. If the Bucs and Bears lose, the Eagles get in by beating the Cowboys. Philadelphia also can get in if Tampa Bay falls and Chicago wins and Minnesota loses, because that would give the Bears the title in the North.
In other games today, Cleveland is at Pittsburgh; Tennessee at Indianapolis; Kansas City at Cincinnati; Seattle at Arizona; and Washington at San Francisco.