The Colts, who tore apart the Packers earlier in the season, edged the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night 31-28. The loss sent Minnesota's record to 5-3, just a game ahead of Green Bay's 4-4. Thus, with a victory over the Vikings on Sunday, the Packers — who were 2 1/2 games behind the Vikings after starting the season 1-4 — will be tied atop the North ledger at 5-4.
"This is a game that if we go ahead and win, our destiny is definitely in our own hands. If we can win this game, it will go a long way in us controlling what happens," said safety Bhawoh Jue, who capably replaced Darren Sharper the last two games.
The Vikings' slump and the Packers' three-game winning streak is reminiscent of a year ago, when the Packers were able to turn around the season after a slow start to pass a Vikings team that started the season 6-0.
That history means nothing to Packers coach Mike Sherman. The Packers are back in the race, but the recent turn of fortune will mean nothing if the Packers can't take care of their business. And that means beating Minnesota on Sunday.
"You can't live and die by what the Vikings do. You live and die by what you do," Sherman said. "We play them twice, so we have two very good opportunities against a very good team. That's what we have to put our faith into, not what other people are going to do."
Working in the Packers' favor is a schedule quirk that gave Green Bay a bye to rest and prepare while giving the Vikings get a short week to prepare as they come off a Monday night game. Thus, while the Vikings lick their wounds from consecutive losses to the Giants and Colts — the latter of which came without star wide receiver Randy Moss — the Packers are flying high with a three-game winning streak and are rejuvenated physically and mentally.
"I don't know how everybody else feels, but I feel great," said linebacker Na'il Diggs said after Monday's first post bye-week practice. "My legs feel good. My body feels good. I'm ready to play football again."
The rest of the Packers' banged-up bodies benefitted from a five-day vacation. Only Sharper and Pro Bowl right guard Marco Rivera sat out Monday's practice.
Rivera is expected to play on the same sprained ankle he battled through against Washington. Sharper's status, however, is a bit more clouded. He did some running Monday to test his left knee (sprained posterior-cruciate ligament), and Sherman said he'd make the call by Friday on Sharper's playing status.
"He appears, in my conversation with him, to be very confident that he'll be available," Sherman said. "But, along the same lines, I have to be smart about it, and we will."
The most famous right thumb in Green Bay belongs to Brett Favre. Sherman said the bye week worked wonders. "His thumb appears to be healed up and fine," Sherman said.
Finally, Sherman will test cornerback Chris Johnson on Tuesday, one day before a decision must be made on the second-year cornerback. Johnson missed all of last season with a knee injury and spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Johnson's three-week window expires Wednesday, meaning Sherman must activate Johnson, place him on season-ending injured reserve or release him. With the release of safety Curtis Fuller last week, there is an opening on the 53-player roster.