By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jan 01, 2008 at 5:18 AM

Well, the National Football League season is over, and as Yogi Berra might say, "Who'da thunk it?"

The Packers, one of the youngest teams in the league with one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league and picked to finish anywhere from last to last in the pre-season polls, ended their season with a victory over the hapless Detroit Lions.

That gave the Packers a 13-3 mark, which tied a franchise record for most victories in a season.

There has been, virtually all season, a hold your breath kind of thing surrounding this team. It's as if we never fully believed this team is really as good as its record. We kept getting told that the ball bounced our way. The schedule was pretty easy. We were one-dimensional.

Well, let your breath out. The season has ended and this team is good. How good? We'll see. But, it's a pretty good football team.

Now, begins the nail-biting time known as the NFL playoffs.

We have a week to restore our breathing to normal as the Packers and Cowboys have a bye the first week of the playoffs. We can all watch as the Giants play the Buccaneers in Tampa and the Redskins play the Seahawks in Seattle.

I'm really not going to pay much attention to the AFC because, unless there is a miracle of some sort, the Patriots are going to be in the Super Bowl.

But the NFC, where the Packers are, is much more interesting.

In their last five games, the Giants lost two at home and won three on the road. They really showed a lot in that final game against New England, playing the Patriots just about even. The Buccaneers have lost three of their last four and have been a little bit injured.

But, I think coaching and defense are critical elements once you get into the playoffs. I like Jon Gruden more than Tom Coughlin, so that edge goes to the Bucs.

And Tampa Bay plays an absolutely hellacious defense. The Bucs are tough against both the run and the pass and I think they will make Eli Manning's life an absolute hell on earth.

This one goes to the Bucs in a low scoring affair.

That leaves us with Washington at Seattle, a very intriguing matchup.

The Redskins are hot; they've won their last four games, including road victories over the Giants and Vikings. They've used the death of a teammate and the resurgence of journeyman quarterback Todd Collins to roar through the end of the season.

Seattle stumbled in its final game, losing to the woeful Atlanta Falcons. They've been a little bit confused about their identity and I'm not convinced that Matt Hassleback is a championship-caliber quarterback. The Seahawks are much better at home than on the road, but there's something about these Redskins. They've got all that emotion and Joe Gibbs is one of the few in this league I'd give rate over Mike Holmgren.

I think the Redskins upset Seattle.

That will take us to the divisional playoffs where Dallas will host Washington and Green Bay will host Tampa Bay. We'll look at that matchup in detail next week, but suffice it to say that it will be Washington at Green Bay for the NFC championship.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.