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NFC North Will Be Fight to Finish

The Green Bay Packers are back. Or are they? And can they make the regular-season finale at Detroit relevant?

The Green Bay Packers saved their season on Monday night at Philadelphia.

“There’s a big difference between 4-7 and 5-6, for sure,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after leading the Packers to a 27-13 victory over the Eagles to snap a four-game losing streak.

The Packers snapped a four-game losing streak and remained very much alive in the NFC North, with their 5-6 record trailing the Detroit Lions (7-4) and Minnesota Vikings (6-5).

“I hope there’s not a ton of relief setting in because we still have a lot of things in front of us we’d like to accomplish,” Rodgers continued. “This was a step in the right direction in a game we needed to take care of business, but we have a short week and we’ve got Houston coming in and we’ve got to have another similar performance.”

The Packers visit Detroit for the regular-season finale. Assuming Minnesota, which has lost five of its last six, doesn’t go on a hot streak, the Packers need only trim one game off their division deficit to earn a shot at the NFC North championship on Jan. 1.

The Packers and Lions face challenging schedules.

Green Bay hosts Houston (6-5) and Seattle (7-3-1), goes to Chicago (2-9), hosts Minnesota (6-5) and visits Detroit (7-4).

Detroit plays at New Orleans (5-6), hosts Chicago (2-9), visits the Giants (8-3) and Cowboys (10-1) and hosts the Packers (5-6).

Combined, the Packers’ next four opponents have a 21-22-1 record.

Detroit’s next four opponents have a combined 25-19 record.

Minnesota has by far the easiest schedule. After it hosts Dallas (10-1) on Thursday night, the Vikings don’t face a team with a winning record the rest of the way. Minnesota visits Jacksonville (2-9), hosts Indianapolis (5-6), visits Green Bay (5-6) and hosts Chicago (2-9).

Because they played on Monday night, the Packers won’t have much time to savor the sweet taste of victory. Coach Mike McCarthy hoped Monday’s win would serve as a “launching pad” into December.

“It feels great,” receiver Davante Adams said. “It's what we're used to doing around here. We've just got to take this and snowball it over into next week and then the next week after that. The rest of this season is real crucial and we know that. We've got all the tools. We've got everything right in front of us. Everything’s still there. We've just got to keep winning.”

The Packers thoroughly dominated a team that had been 4-0 at home, including a four-touchdown victory over Pittsburgh. The Eagles had defeated the Falcons and Vikings — two teams that beat the Packers. The season-defining question is whether the Packers truly can use this victory as a “launching pad.” Or, is this a matter of “Any Given Sunday” — or “Any Given Monday,” in this case — in that any team can rise up in this parity-driven league?

Are the Packers simply too good of a team to keep losing? Or are they so mediocre that this game will be merely a blip on the radar and they’ll cough up one or both of these home games?

Facing the first-place Texans and Seahawks in back-to-back weeks should answer that question.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself and believe in your teammates, and not let that doubt or fear of failure cripple you,” Rodgers said. “You’ve got to harness it and channel it to the positive, and I think our guys did that this week. We had a good week of practice and it showed in the way we played.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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