With a loss, the Packers would fall to 8-1 and still be considered the top team in not only the NFC, but the entire National Football League.
Sounds like a win-win situation for Most Valuable Player favorite Aaron Rodgers and his Packers.
But one of the things I've been trying to figure out for the past couple of weeks is who is the No. 2 team in the conference.
San Francisco would have the same record (8-1) as the Packers should they lose tonight. Chicago and Detroit, both in Green Bay's division, currently stand at 6-3 after Chicago's 37-13 shellacking of Detroit yesterday afternoon. New Orleans (7-3) is riding a two-game win streak after victories over division counterparts Tampa Bay and Atlanta. And New York sits atop the NFC East, falling to 6-3 on the season with a 27-20 loss to San Fran yesterday.
We now have five candidates for the No. 2 spot after yesterday's slate of games, but I think we can eliminate two teams on the spot: New York and Detroit.
New York leads its division, but it's a rather weak division. The second-place Cowboys are 5-4, two games ahead of Philadelphia and Washington (both are 3-6). Eli Manning and his Giants captured a huge victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots two weeks ago, but fell to a key matchup with the Niners yesterday, therefore putting them behind the Niners in the Chase for No. 2, as I'm calling it.
As for the Lions, they split the season series with Chicago (W 24-13, L 37-13) but have dropped three of its last four games and, like New York, also fell to the mighty Niners earlier in the season. Matthew Stafford has outperformed Chicago's Jay Cutler by far but the Bears get the nod when it comes to supporting cast.
That leaves me with just three options for one slot: San Francisco, New Orleans and Chicago.
San Francisco has the best record among the three, New Orleans is leading a tough division over Atlanta and Tampa, and Chicago is on a four-game winning streak.
San Francisco being in the weakest division in the league (second-place Seattle and Arizona are 3-6), but they have had just one game against a division opponent so far this season–a 33-17 victory over Seattle. With a 6-1 record against NFC teams, a fluke 27-24 loss to Dallas being the lone loss, Jim Harbaugh's squad has been resilient and Alex Smith is finally proving why he was the top pick in the 2005 NFL draft.
New Orleans is 7-3 overall and 3-1 against NFC South teams, but they are just 3-3 on the road. If they expect to make a Super Bowl run they will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball as well. San Fran is No. 1 in scoring defense and has allowed 20+ points just three times this season.
Overall, New Orleans and San Francisco are close in talent and production, but the 49ers get the edge. One of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season, Jim Harbaugh has proven that it sometimes pays large dividends to hire a top college coach. Only sometimes though, of course.
Rodgers: Denis Poroy/AP Photo
Willis: AP Photo