Word spread quickly that there's still hope for Green Bay to win the NFC Central.

The Packers didn't need any help to earn a playoff berth Saturday. However, they may have to wait until Monday night to learn if they'll go into the postseason as division champions for the first time since 1972.Sterling Sharpe went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fifth time in his career and caught three touchdown passes as Green Bay (9-7) beat Tampa Bay 34-19 to clinch at least a wild-card spot.

With Chicago losing to New England, the Packers can still win the division title if Detroit (9-6) loses at Miami Sunday night and Minnesota (9-6) falls to San Francisco in the Monday night game.

"I'm going to watch some TV, that's for sure," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's a special day. We've had our backs to the wall all season. If the breaks fall right, we'll host a playoff game next week."

Brett Favre threw for 291 yards and set team records for completions and TD passes in a season as the Packers outgained the Bucs 433-214. He was 24-of-36 with one interception, finishing with 363 completions and 33 TDs to break records held by Don Majkowski and Lynn Dickey.

The Bucs (6-10) saw an end to a four-game winning streak - the team's longest in 15 years - and extended their NFL-record streak of consecutive seasons with double-digit losses to 12.

The largest crowd of the season (65,076 with 9,225 no shows) filled Tampa Stadium for what could be the Bucs last game in this area if the team is sold to investors hoping to move the franchise to Baltimore.

"It's not a fun time walking into a locker room after a loss," said Tampa Bay's Sam Wyche, whose 100th career defeat (including playoffs) also made him the first coach in league history to lose at least 10 four straight years.

"The good news is that we have a lot of good players, a lot of quality people in there. The players will rebound from what's been a long, tough year."

View Comments

Sharpe had nine receptions for 132 yards, the fourth 100-yard performance he's had against the Bucs, and has 94 catches for 1,119 yards. He scored four touchdowns in a game at Tampa Stadium last season and has now topped 1,000 yards five times in seven years.

Outside of failing to score after recovering a fumble at the Tampa Bay 6, the Packers were virtually unstoppable in the opening half. Besides Favre's TD passes of 6, 22 and 6 yards to Sharpe, Edgar Bennett scored on a 39-yard run on Green Bay's first possession.

"We're peaking," Favre said after the Packers extended their winning streak to three games and also won for only the second time in eight road games. "I think everybody would agree that this 9-7 team is much better than last year's 9-7."

Craig Erickson was 16-of-32 passing for 161 yards for Tampa Bay, which gained more a third of its total yardage on a fourth-quarter drive that produced Tyji Armstrong's 1-yard TD catch.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.