NFL teams have no fear of playing in the wild-card round.
Recent history shows the playoff bye isn't such a big deal anymore. In six of the last seven years, one of the Super Bowl participants didn't get a bye to begin the postseason. And five of those teams wound up winning the NFL title.
So Green Bay's blowing the bye by losing to Minnesota last Sunday might not be such a setback. Same for Houston, which had an even bigger fall, fumbling away home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as well as the week off, by losing three of its last four.
Of course, Texans coach Gary Kubiak recognizes the week-to-week nature of pro football, and how things can change quickly in seven days -- and last for a month, right to a championship.
"That's life, and that's part of football," Kubiak said. "How'd you play last week? How have you played the last few weeks? What have you done lately? That's our world. We understand that, and it hasn't been good the last few weeks, so hopefully we get it better."
Nobody knows how to achieve that improvement more than the Packers. Two years ago, they barely squeezed into the Super Bowl chase, then raced to three road victories and, finally, a title win over Pittsburgh.
"I'd have preferred a week off, to be honest with you," Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. "But we put ourselves in this situation throughout the whole year. It's not just this last game.
"This last game
That begins Saturday night at Lambeau Field against Minnesota. Had the Packers beaten the Vikings last Sunday, they would be sitting at home this weekend watching the Bears play at San Francisco. Instead, they will trudge onto the tundra to face rushing king Adrian Peterson, who ran around, through and over them for 199 yards to get the Vikings into the playoffs.
The Vikings had no chance for a bye; they never really were in the chase for the NFC North title. They're just glad to be in the tournament, knowing that the Steelers, Colts, Packers and Giants (twice) recently covered the lengthier route to the NFL championship.
"The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl."