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."
Some teams already are on runs. Denver has won 11 straight to grab the top spot in the AFC. Washington takes a seven-game winning into Sunday's home game against Seattle, winner of five in a row.
As for the four teams sitting it out this weekend, there certainly are positives to some down time. Denver and Atlanta were last off on Oct. 21, San Francisco and New England on Nov. 4. That's a long time without a break.
"Of course I appreciate the bye. It's the shortest route to get where we want to go," Denver linebacker Von Miller said. "We definitely want to take advantage of this bye week, we're resting our bodies and going over some stuff that we did well, some stuff that we did bad during the season.
"It's just trying to fine-tune this ship before we get ready to try to make one of the biggest runs of the season.