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Wisconsin Sports Briefs: Packers host Niners in playoff game next Sunday…

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The Green Bay Packers will host San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 5, at 3:40 p.m. in an NFC Wild Card game.

The Packers won their third straight NFC North Division title last Sunday with a 33-28 victory at Chicago in the regular season's closing minute.

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Aaron Rodgers found a wide-open Randall Cobb on fourth and eight for a 48-yard scoring pass with 38 seconds to go to win the see-saw battle.

It ended an 87-yard drive with 6:24 left, in which Green Bay converted three times on fourth down.

Rodgers threw both of his touchdown passes to Cobb, after both returned from serious injuries.

Rodgers was out since Nov. 4 with a broken collarbone, and Cobb out since Oct. 13 with a broken leg.

Rodgers completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards with two early interceptions. He was sacked three times, but only once for any significant loss.

Cobb had two catches on the day, both for touchdowns totaling 55 yards.

Jordy Nelson was the Pack's top receiver with 161 yards on 10 catches.

James Starks ran for 88 yards on 11 carries, and Eddie Lacy had 66 yards on 21 rushing attempts for Green Bay.

The Packers have now won four straight at Soldier Field and seven of their last eight games against Chicago.

The Bears blew their second straight chance to win the North Division title.

Jay Cutler threw for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Matt Forte had 22 carries for 110 yards and two scores, plus 47 yards through the air with another score.

The Bears finished at 8-8, missing the playoffs for three straight seasons.

Confidence

The Green Bay Packers promise to enter the playoffs with more confidence than you might expect from a team that just sneaked in. The third through sixth seeds play in next weekend's Wild Card round.

Green Bay was given the No. 4 seed in the NFC, as the division champion with the worst record at 8-7-1. On Sunday, they'll host a San Francisco 49ers team that went 12-4 as a runner-up to top-seeded Seattle in the NFC West.

Still, veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett says everything goes back to 0-0. Pickett believes the Packers have the mental toughness to keep winning. He said their sights are definitely set on their second Super Bowl in four seasons.

The Packers went 6-2 with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and 2-5-1 without him.

However, Rodgers was at the controls when Green Bay lost three times to the 49'rs in the past two seasons, including the divisional round a year ago.

The Green Bay defense gave up 579 yards to the Niners, and 412 yards in the first week of this season.

Both those games were played in San Francisco. The other loss was at Lambeau Field to start the 2012 campaign.

Green Bay won the NFC North Division for the third year in a row.

Once again, rookie running back Eddie Lacy aggravated an ankle injury suffered Dec. 8 against Atlanta. He nevertheless managed to run for 66 yards and a score.

Playoff tickets on sale

The Packers will sell about 40,000 tickets Monday for their Wild Card playoff contest against San Francisco on Sunday. Season-ticket holders will get the first opportunity from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

If there's anything left, the general public can buy them starting at 3 p.m. at Ticketmaster.

There will no phone sales. All buyers will be limited to four seats each. More information is available at Packers.Com.

Season ticket holders had a chance to buy playoff seats a month ago, but apparently many were not confident back then that the Packers would make the playoffs.

2014 opponents announced

The Packers now know who they'll play next season. The schedule is determined in part by where each team finishes in their respective division standings.

As always, Green Bay will play its three NFC North counterparts both at a home and on the road - that being Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit.

Here are the Packers' other home opponents - New England, the New York Jets, Philadelphia, Carolina and Atlanta.

On the road, the Packers will face New Orleans, Buffalo, Miami, Seattle and Tampa Bay.

Dates for each game will be determined next spring, when the full 2014 NFL schedule is released.

Vikings fire Frazier

The Minnesota Vikings fired coach Leslie Frazier Monday morning, Dec. 30. Owner Zigi Wolf said it's a difficult move, but it's best for the organization.

General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings did not achieve the success and progress they expected. He said a coaching change is needed to quote "help build a successful team moving forward."

Minnesota finished last in the NFC North Division at 5-10-1. They lost all of their road games except for the tie at Green Bay on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It made Minnesota the only NFL team not to win away from home.

Frazier became the interim coach in mid-2010, after former Wisconsin Badgers' assistant Brad Childress was let go. The Vikes went 3-16 before putting things together in 2012 with a 10-6 mark.

This year, Minnesota struggled at quarterback with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman taking turns as the starter. Also, the Minnesota defense gave up the most points in the NFL - 480 - including 70 points in their two games against Green Bay.

Lions expected to fire Schwartz

Fox Sports says Detroit coach Jim Schwartz and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier will both be let go Monday, Dec. 30.

NFL Network also says Schwartz will be shown the door before the day's out.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports said the Lions needed to make the playoffs for Schwartz to keep his job, and that Frazier's future has been teetering for a while.

After a December collapse, the third-place Lions finished 7-9, a game behind second-place Chicago and one-and-a-half behind the Packers.

Minnesota finished 5-10-1 after beating Detroit 14-13 Sunday in the final game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Cordarrelle Patterson scored both of Minnesota's touchdowns, as the Vikes missed the playoffs for the third time in four years.

The Lions have missed the post-season twice in a row, after making the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 1999.

Badgers face quality QB

Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda calls South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw the "heart and soul" of that team. The Badgers are getting ready to play the Gamecocks in Wednesday's Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

Shaw, a senior, had shoulder and knee injuries this season, and still didn’t miss a game.

Shaw has completed 62 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns, one interception and an average of 178 passing yards per contest. His lone pick came against Tennessee. It ended a streak of 177 passing attempts without an interception.

Shaw is 26-5 in his starts at South Carolina. He's the only Gamecock ever to have 1,000 career rushing yards and 5,000 passing yards.

Wisconsin safety Tanner McEvoy, who red-shirted at South Carolina as a quarterback in 2011, said Shaw is smart and versatile. McEvoy said Shaw makes intelligent decisions.

Wisconsin-trained speed-skaters qualify for Olympics

Former Milwaukee area speed-skater Sugar Todd earned her second Olympic slot Sunday, placing third in the women's 1,000 meters at the trials near Salt Lake City.

Todd qualified for the 500-meters earlier in the weekend. She's a 2008 graduate of Wauwatosa East High School.

On the men's side, Shani Davis and Brian Hansen, who both train in Milwaukee, earned spots on the U.S. squad in the 1,000 meters.

Davis won yesterday's trial and Hansen finished second. Both also made the U.S. squad in the 500 meters.

The Olympic Trials resume Tuesday, Dec. 31, with the 1,500 meters. The longer races will take place on New Year's Day.

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