Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and tight end
Jermichael Finley (88) celebrate after FInley's 20-yard
touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions in the second
quarter of an NFL game in Detroit, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.
GREEN BAY —
It wasn't too long ago that the Green Bay Packers were in a bad
place, lagging at the bottom of the NFC North with a — gasp! —
losing record while folks picked apart their flaws as if they were
some sideshow on Dr. Phil.
Look at them now.
winning streak that's tied for best in the NFL has the Packers (7-3)
atop their division and in position to start the playoffs at home.
(Yes, they have the same record as the Chicago Bears, but Green Bay
owns the tiebreaker after beating its rivals to the south in
September.) With four of the last six games against NFC North
opponents and some of their many ailing players beginning to get
healthy, the Packers are right where they want to be.
happy to be back up there, especially after starting 2-3,"
Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. "We're kind of getting on a roll.
But even like we said at the beginning of the season, it's all about
playing the right way in December and moving forward. We're not
quite to December. We're gaining momentum as we go, but we know we
need to play our best late in the season and into the
As if they
needed any reminder, the Packers play the New York Giants on Sunday
night. Those would be the same Giants who came on strong at the end
of last season, knocked the Packers out of the playoffs and went on
to win the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.
the playoff game, I mean it wasn't fun. I think that's
obvious," coach Mike McCarthy said.
the start of this season.
Green Bay had
about as rough a start as it gets. Stunned in the opener by San
Francisco, the Packers seemed to have things back on track with
their win over Chicago the next week. But then came the Inaccurate
Reception out in Seattle, and the injuries began piling up. The low
point was blowing an 18-point, halftime lead in Indianapolis.
falling apart, though, the Packers pulled together. They each took
responsibility for the losses, and didn't argue when McCarthy
preached a return to the fundamentals. When key players went down
— Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Cedric Benson and Clay Matthews,
just to name a few — guys stepped up to fill the holes.
little, the Packers got better. So did their record.
a total of 57 points in the first three games, Green Bay has
averaged 29.4 in the last seven, fourth best in the NFL. Rodgers has
been the league's best quarterback over that span, with 24
touchdowns, four interceptions and a passing rating of 117. The
defense is second in the NFL with 33 sacks, and rookie Casey Hayward
is tied for second in the league with five interceptions. Since Week
4, Green Bay has allowed a league-best 84 yards rushing per game —
no small thing with winter coming and four cold-weather games left.
been impressive to watch simply because I think, last year, with
having so much success, we didn't experience the losses and the, for
lack of a better word, that lull," said Jennings, who practiced
Wednesday for the first time since Nov. 1 surgery to repair a torn
abdominal muscle. "But we've experienced some adversity this
year and we've overcome it. Guys have stepped up to the plate, made
plays when their numbers were called and we haven't really missed a
was a time there where it was kind of like, OK, we had to fill
everything out and guys had to kind of get comfortable in their
roles. Once everybody got comfortable, we started rolling
now have the third-best record in the NFC, behind Atlanta and San
Francisco, and would host a wild-card game if the season ended now.
start may actually make the Packers more dangerous come December and
January, too. The defense, so maligned last year, is much improved,
and it actually bailed out the offense last week in Detroit. Forced
into larger roles because of the injuries, youngsters like Hayward
and Randall Cobb have become big-time players who could be
cornerstones of the Packers for years to come.
As for that
long list of injuries, it should get shorter in the coming weeks.
Jennings isn't ruling himself out for Sunday night's game, despite
only being back at practice the one day. Matthews could return in
the next week or so, and Benson and Woodson are ahead of schedule in
Packers are back in the conversation these days. And unlike a few
weeks ago, they don't mind what people are saying about them.
still early, but it's nice to be in the lead and have, for a lack of
a better term, your destiny in your own hands," B.J. Raji said.
"But like I said, it's still early and we still have a lot of
games to play. The key is to maintain it, and keep the lead."
Notes: LB Clay
Matthews (hamstring) is "doubtful" for this week's game,
McCarthy said. ... CB Sam Shields has had a setback, and McCarthy
said his ankle injury is more serious than the team initially
thought. "It's going to be a couple of weeks," McCarthy