Notebook: One Win And They're In

For the Packers, their playoff fate rests on next week's game against NFC North champion Chicago. Plus, injury updates and some quick-hitting notes from Monday.

The only playoff scenario that matters to coach Mike McCarthy is the one he can control. Beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and his Green Bay Packers will clinch a playoff berth.

"I'm focused on winning. I don't look at scenarios," he said on Monday, the day after his team pummeled the New York Giants 45-17 to overtake the Giants in the NFC playoff standings. "I've been standing up here for two months, it's the same talk I give to my football team. We need to get to 10 wins, and until we get to 10 wins nothing else matters. That's where we stand. We're focused on win No. 10 against the Chicago Bears. Scenarios, I couldn't even tell you what they are."

The Packers (9-6) are in a three-way tie for sixth place in the NFC, with tiebreaker advantages over the Giants (head-to-head) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (strength of victory). Green Bay could qualify with a loss to the Bears, but that would require the Giants losing at Washington (6-9) and Tampa Bay losing at New Orleans (10-4), pending their game tonight at NFC-leading Atlanta).

Even with the NFC North-champion Bears (11-4) potentially playing for a first-round bye and a divisional-round home game, if the Packers play like they did against the Giants, they shouldn't have to count on anyone else for help. Aaron Rodgers was masterful, with 25-of-37 accuracy for 404 yards and four touchdowns. The defense forced six turnovers – which the offense turned into four touchdowns and a field goal.

"I like the mind-set of our football team," McCarthy said. "I think this is clearly the most resilient team I've coached in my time here. Just the number of challenges that you face over the course of a season, and last week was no different. Had a big opponent that came in here, played at a high level, feel very good about it. But we have a seven-day process that starts today. A lot of confidence, a lot of guys in the weight room, a lot of people here watching film already getting ready for the Chicago Bears. I like the heartbeat, I like the pulse. They're a fun group to coach, and we have a big one this week as everybody knows."

Injury updates

The Packers played without defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who ranks second on the team with seven sacks, for a third straight game with a calf strain. The hope was he'd be back for the Chicago game but McCarthy said, "We really don't have a pulse on his situation," and that it would probably be a weeklong evaluation.

Outside linebacker Frank Zombo (knee sprain) will practice on Friday to see if he'd be able to play on Sunday. That was the formula used last week, but Zombo had a setback at practice and was inactive for the game. In his place and with Erik Walden battling a quad strain, Robert Francois started but he and Walden rotated on a by-series basis.

McCarthy has ruled out fullback Korey Hall (knee sprain) and safety Atari Bigby (groin strain).

Four-point stance

-- Game balls went to Rodgers and John Kuhn on offense, B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk on defense and Brandon Underwood and Kuhn on special teams. The Big Hit Award went to Jarrett Bush. McCarthy said he didn't recall a player winning two game balls before.

-- A few weeks ago against San Francisco, James Starks looked like the possible salvation for the Packers' beleaguered running game. But after an ineffective game against Detroit, he's been inactive the last two weeks. On Sunday, Dimitri Nance rushed for 32 yards on nine carries. "When you are not a starter, if you don't play all three downs as a starter on offense or defense, you have special-teams responsibilities," McCarthy said. "You can't give lip service to special teams. We have had so much change on special teams. We are trying to have some sense of continuity and consistency on our special teams, and we need for the younger players to play better and be more accountable and detailed when they get an opportunity."

-- With four touchdowns off of six takeaways, the Packers boast a league-high conversion rate of 50 percent.

-- Meanwhile, the Giants were spending a fourth consecutive night at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. Airports in New York remained closed due to the blizzard. Covering the Giants' odyssey for New York Times, punter Matt Dodge told Packer Report that he bought an "I Love Appleton" T-shirt as a memento.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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