So, with most national pundits predicting a victory by his Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Philadelphia — and some esteemed members of the media such as Sports Illustrated's Peter King predicting the Packers will win the NFC — McCarthy has made it a point to make sure his team doesn't get too far ahead of itself.
"It was really stemmed off the message of ‘more,'" he said on Friday. "There's going to be more things going on this week than during the regular season. I'm stating the obvious. You're going to be asked to do more interviews. There's going to be more people that want to talk to you. You're going to hear more about the Packers. There's only 12 teams left playing. I just think it's important to stay on the reality of where we are. We like who we are as a football team. We love the way we compete. We're proud of the body of work that we've put together over these 16 games, and that's what we're taking to Philadelphia. It's not going to make a lick of difference, anything outside of that pro or con that should affect our mind-set."
When he was hired almost exactly five years ago, McCarthy raised eyebrows when he said the challenge would be handling success. After all, McCarthy was a first-time head coach and was taking over a 4-12 team. It seemed like big talk from a relative nobody.
But with a 48-32 record, along with three playoff berths in the last four seasons, the method behind the madness is clear. Still, McCarthy acknowledged that his team hasn't had to handle the type of success that everyone in the locker room is shooting for — and all of Packer Nation is dreaming about.
"We're proud of the way we've performed and some of the challenges we overcame, but we're not reflecting yet," he said. "The level of success that we want to handle, we're not there yet. After winning in Philadelphia, how do you handle that? That will be a challenge. Playing on a short week going into Atlanta I think is something that definitely helps you. I think it's just something that as a leader of your team you have to keep focused on."
Throughout the regular season, McCarthy has different captains for each game. For the playoffs, though, the players vote for permanent captains, and they selected Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings on offense, Charles Woodson and A.J. Hawk on defense and Mason Crosby and Jarrett Bush on special teams.
"I think it's a tremendous honor," McCarthy said. "I know for A.J. and Greg Jennings and Jarrett Bush, this is their first time. They will wear the ‘C' in the Philadelphia Eagles game, and they will also participate in the coin toss. We have the tradition of having weekly captains, but this is something that's voted on by the team, and it shows a lot of respect and I know every individual is proud of it."
In the locker room, those players were putting on shirts and ties to take a pre-playoffs photo.
"It's definitely an honor to be one of them," Hawk said. "It's like I just told them, I hope it lasts for awhile and lasts for four weeks. It's an honor, and it's exciting just to be a part of the playoffs."
Packers injury report
Out: S Atari Bigby (groin); FB Korey Hall (knee); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Questionable: DE Cullen Jenkins (calf). Probable: T Chad Clifton (knees); S Nick Collins (ribs); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (toe).
"Cullen Jenkins, I feel has had two good days of practice," McCarthy said. "We rested him today. I'm hopeful that he'll go. Just want to give him a chance to recover. The doctors and the medical staff felt it was best to back off him today. Everything has been very positive, and if he's ready to go, he will go on Sunday."
Zombo could possibly be ready to play a game next weekend.
Eagles injury report
Questionable: LB Stewart Bradley (shoulder); G Todd Herremans (calf); G Max Jean-Gilles (ankle). Probable: G Nick Cole (knee); TE Clay Harbor (abdomen); T Winston Justice (knee); DT Trevor Laws (shoulder); CB Asante Samuel (knee); QB Michael Vick (quad).
Jean-Gilles did not practice all week, though coach Andy Reid said he wasn't too worried because of his knowledge of the offense. Herremans was limited after being held out on Thursday. Bradley was given a shot to see how his dislocated elbow would respond to football movements. Reid voiced some optimism but still said it would be a "stretch" for Bradley to play. "He's a beast. He's very optimistic," Reid added.
— At one point, McCarthy said he's not superstitious. Later, though, he said safeties coach Darren Perry gave the weekly speech before the start of practice. Why? Because Perry gave the speech on the Friday before the regular-season win at Philadelphia. "Well, there's a difference between being consistent and superstitious. That's my story and I'm sticking to it," McCarthy said with a laugh.
— The Packers tied with Atlanta for being the second-least penalized team in the league with only 72 accepted infractions. Everything's magnified this time of year but McCarthy said penalties haven't been part of his message. "We're not going to be cautious. I think that would be the wrong message to give to your football team. We believe in our team identity. Discipline is the first characteristic of our team identity. I think we have done a very good job of that over these 16 weeks."
— Last year's Packers brought a highly ranked defense to Arizona but got trashed by the Cardinals in the 51-45 overtime loss. "The thing that's foremost in your mind is the last time you were out there, and so, yeah, we studied, we went back and studied things," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I was looking for an explanation because it kind of came out of nowhere. I think our team has matured, and I think we've handled many of the situations we've been in much better than we did the first year. We've talked about how we've been a much better team in the red area, when we've had to go on the field in difficult situations."
— Woodson was with Oakland when the Packers lost the infamous fourth-and-26 playoff game at Philadelphia. "I've seen it. Not good for the Packers, I know that. Hopefully it won't come down to a fourth-and-26 for us. We'll make some plays and wrap the game up early."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.