Packers-Lions should be for all the marbles

The Mining Journal's reporter Steve Brownlee receives a Good News Awards from Bishop James Garland during a lunch and awards ceremony Wednesday at the Landmark Inn in Marquette. (Journal photo by Dave Edwards)

The NFC North will almost certainly come down to next week’s Green Bay-at-Detroit showdown.

There’s only two scenarios that might prevent that — first, if the Packers lose to visiting Minnesota on Saturday and Detroit can win at Dallas on Monday night, then the division goes to the Lions before the final weekend.

One other scenario I just became aware of gets more complicated — losses by Green Bay and Detroit this weekend, meaning a win for Minnesota, pulls those three teams within a game of each other.

If in Week 17, Green Bay beats Detroit and Minnesota takes out Chicago, then the top three will all be 9-7.

Looking at a page on the NFL’s website,, shows that the first tiebreaker “to break a tie within a division” among “three or more clubs” is “head-to-head.”

Nothing gets decided here, because assuming the Week 16 and 17 results that produce a three-way tie, it would mean the Packers went 2-0 vs. the Lions, Detroit went 2-0 vs. the Vikings and Minnesota would be 2-0 vs. Green Bay.

In other words, everyone’s 2-2 head to head.

Tiebreaker No. 2 is “best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.”

That means adding your results against Chicago to the 2-2 records we’ve already figured out.

And that tiebreaker goes to Green Bay, as the Packers swept the Bears (for a 4-2 division record) while both Detroit and Minnesota split with Chicago (for 3-3 division records).

So it goes back to square one — Green Bay at Detroit in Week 17 in all likelihood determines the division champion.

If that much is really at stake, expect to see the game moved to Sunday night.

Onto this week’s picks:

Tonight, 8:30 p.m.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia — Eagles too wounded to slow the New York juggernaut. Giants, 17-10.

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Miami at Buffalo — Buffalo’s last four losses have come against Pittsburgh, Oakland, Seattle and New England. The Dolphins playing in 39-degree rain aren’t in that class. Bills, 27-21.

Atlanta at Carolina — I don’t like the Panthers when their defense is being tested. Falcons, 30-20.

Washington at Chicago — Between Washington being a half-game out of the wild card and the Bears finding ways to lose, take the Redskins, 31-28.

San Diego at Cleveland — The Browns are consistent — 31st in scoring offense and 31st in scoring defense among 32 NFL teams. Meanwhile, San Diego has scored as many points as it has allowed despite being just 5-9. The visitors have something to prove. Chargers, 24-10.

Minnesota at Green Bay — The Pack will end this talk of a three-way tie atop the NFC North. Packers, 33-22.

Tennessee at Jacksonville — To put it nicely, don’t regurgitate your dinner, Tennessee, now that you’re tied for the AFC South lead and a game out of the wild card. Titans, 29-20.

N.Y. Jets at New England — If Bill Belichick can find new receiver Michael Floyd a driver, he could help out the New England offense. Patriots, 26-19.

Saturday, 4-4:30 p.m.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans — Expect a loud crowd for New Orleans’ final home game of the season. Saints, 24-20.

Indianapolis at Oakland — The only 4 p.m. game with two playoff contenders. Why does this feel like Indy’s trying to catch a tiger by the tail? Raiders, 36-26.

San Francisco at Los Angeles — Earlier, I listed who the Bills’ last four losses were to, which included New England.

These two teams also have a loss to the Patriots in their past four setbacks. Impressive, surely, but no help picking this game. 49ers, 22-16.

Arizona at Seattle — Jekyll-and-Hyde Seattle needs Mr. Hyde to show if it wants to hold onto the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Seahawks, 38-23.

Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

Cincinnati at Houston — Houston let its (Tom) Savage out last weekend, and it vastly improved the quarterback position. Texans, 27-17.

Sunday, 4:30 p.m.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh — This all but decides the AFC North winner with the Ravens going for the series sweep. Steelers, 19-13.

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

Denver at Kansas City — Denver’s defense can’t carry the load alone against quality opposition. Chiefs, 19-10.

Monday, 8:30 p.m.

Detroit at Dallas — An opportunistic defense like Detroit’s needs opportunities. Plus this game is rendered all but meaningless after Green Bay wins Sunday. Cowboys, 33-17.

Last week — 10-6, 63 percent. Season — 139-83-2, 63 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is