Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Packers blew golden opportunity to be in thick of race for a wild card berth

Receiver Donald Driver reiterated a declaration he had made a week earlier that the Packers, presumably an afterthought following a 1-4 start, were in the hunt for a berth in the NFC playoffs.

Yet, after literally throwing and fumbling away a game that they otherwise dominated Sunday at Buffalo, the Packers are in catch-up mode again with half of a schedule to play. They failed to even their record for the first time by losing 24-10 to the hapless Bills.

"Our focus was to get to 4-4 because the second half of the season is where all the slotting (for the playoffs) starts to occur," head coach Mike McCarthy said.

Had Green Bay not gift-wrapped the victory for Buffalo with four turnovers, the Packers would be tied with Minnesota for second place in the NFC North. The rivals meet for the first time Sunday in Minneapolis.

The Vikings are among five NFC teams in a logjam at 4-4, which is the sixth-best record in the league. Thus, a hotly contested race is shaping up for the two wild-card spots - Atlanta is out in front for the other with a 5-3 mark.

It's not lost on McCarthy and his players that the Packers should be ahead of the pack and possibly nipping at the heels of firmly entrenched NFC North leader Chicago (7-1). Besides Sunday's implosion, Green Bay had late-game meltdowns against conference foes New Orleans and St. Louis at home.

Of the eight NFC teams that are 4-4 or 3-5, the Packers are the only one with four losses (2-4) in NFC games, putting them in a hole for possible tiebreaker scenarios.

"I'm not going to lie to you, when we lost to the Rams and New Orleans, they're NFC teams and you kind of wonder, 'I hope this doesn't come back to bite you,'" McCarthy said. "I've had it happen to me in the past (with other teams), but you have to look forward. We just need to go into Minnesota and win. That's our focus. We let one get away from us that we potentially could have won, and we will learn from that.

"(But) that's three times this year. I'm hopeful, and I do believe that you just keep banging away. We're coming together as a football team, and we're playing the style of football that we want to play, and we are improving. And, eventually, the ball will start bouncing our way a little bit. (But) until we take care of the obvious, when you're making the same mistakes over and over, that's a problem."

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