Packers notebook

Green Bay still a longshot for playoffs; Packers are strong finishers; injury update

The Packers have never finished .500 or worse and qualified for the playoffs. Yet, if they win Sunday night at Chicago to end the regular season, they could be in the postseason with an 8-8 record.

As one of five 7-8 teams in the hunt for the final wild-card berth in the NFC bracket, Green Bay has five scenarios in which it can break through to continue its season. The Packers will need help from a number of teams, but if their fate still hangs in the balance by kickoff New Year's Eve, it will be incumbent on them to not lose the game. There is no scenario in which the Packers can advance with a 7-9 record.

"You can't ignore it," Kampman said of the impact other games will have on its playoff prospects before Green Bay finally takes to the field. "(But) that can't distract us from our focus. It's a temptation, and this is where the mental toughness comes in.

"The thing you have to guard against is, if you get emotionally caught up in other things, it drains you. (Football) takes its toll not only physically but emotionally. If you let your emotions get away from you by watching all of these other games and get caught up in the drama of it, all of a sudden, you're tired and you can't perform the best you can."

Four of the scenarios require a Packers win. In three of those, there must be a New York Giants loss or tie at Washington on Saturday night, plus either a St. Louis loss or tie at Minnesota on Sunday, a Carolina win at New Orleans on Sunday or an Atlanta win at Philadelphia on Sunday.

There's a scenario in which the Packers can move on with a tie against the Bears, but they will need losses by the Giants and the Rams and a loss or tie by the Falcons and the Panthers.

The most unlikely scenario by which Green Bay can sneak in involves wins by the Packers and the Giants, but eight other outcomes would have to fall Green Bay's way for it to win the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Giants: wins by Arizona, Detroit, Miami, Minnesota and San Francisco and losses by Carolina, Houston and Tampa Bay.

If the Packers buck the long odds they face this weekend, Mike McCarthy would become the first coach in Green Bay history to guide a team to the playoffs in his first year.

Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren's championship legacies incidentally started without a postseason berth in 1959 (7-5 record) and 1992 (9-7), respectively.

Packers are strong finishers
The Packers are without peer in ending the season on a high note. They have won 11 of 12 regular-season finales since 1994 -- the .917 winning percentage is the league's best mark in the span, ahead of Washington's .833 (10-2).

Green Bay has won three straight to finish the season, including a 31-14 decision at Chicago in the 2004 season.

Undefeated on New Year's Eve
The New Year's Eve date has been more favorable to the Packers. They have won all four games on the day. Sunday's contest will be the first Green Bay plays in the regular season on New Year's Eve.

Perhaps the most memorable game in team lore was on New Year's Eve in 1967. The Packers pulled out a 21-17 win over Dallas in the NFL Championship game at Lambeau Field, as quarterback Bart Starr scored on a 1-yard sneak with 13 seconds left. The matchup has been glorified as the Ice Bowl because the kickoff temperature was 13 degrees below zero and the wind chill was 46 below zero.

Green Bay's other New Year's Eve conquests were 37-0 over the New York Giants for the NFL championship in 1961, 16-12 over Detroit in an NFC wild-card playoff game in 1994 and 37-20 over Atlanta in an NFC wild-card playoff contest in 1995. All of those games were played at Green Bay.

Last meeting
The Bears turned the teams' season-opening meeting Sept. 10 at Lambeau Field into a lopsided affair, winning 26-0. Green Bay was shut out for the first time since it lost 10-0 to Chicago on Oct. 17, 1991, at Lambeau.

The rout was on when Rex Grossman flung a 49-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian in the game-opening series. The Bears' other touchdown came on an 84-yard punt return by rookie Devin Hester in the fourth quarter.

The Packers were held to 267 total yards, and Brett Favre had two interceptions with a 40.9 passer rating.

Playing the Bears starters or backups?
While head coach Mike McCarthy won't be in a position to hold back because the 7-8 Packers might be playing for their playoff lives Sunday night, he suspects Chicago will take the liberty of rolling in numerous players. The 13-2 Bears have locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, so the outcome of the regular-season finale will mean little to them.

"I do not have a read on what they're going to do personnel-wise," McCarthy said Wednesday. "We're just going through the film study like we always have. I anticipate if they do cut back, they may approach it like a lot of people approach preseason games.

"Those are things we can't control, and we're just preparing for the individual matchups that are available to us on film, and we'll push forward."

The Packers could be at full strength with their preferred starters on both sides for the first and only time this season. They will know if the game has any bearing on the final wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs by the 7:15 p.m. CST kickoff.

Injury update
-- WR Donald Driver was held out of practice Wednesday to rest the dislocated right shoulder he aggravated in the Dec. 21 win over Minnesota. Driver is probable for the game Sunday night at Chicago.

-- RB Ahman Green, as usual, was given Wednesday off to preserve his chronically sore knees. Green, too, is probable for the upcoming game. He needs 12 rushing yards for a record-setting sixth 1,000-yard season as a Packer. Green is 116 yards away from Jim Taylor's 40-year-old franchise record of 8,207 rushing yards.

-- CB Charles Woodson also was held to the midweek routine of not practicing because of a lingering shoulder injury. Woodson, who leads the NFC with seven interceptions, probably won't practice until Friday but is probable for the game.

-- TE David Martin practiced Wednesday and could be cleared to play Sunday for only the second time in the last six games. Martin is questionable with a ribs injury.

-- LB Abdul Hodge is questionable at best for the game because of a shoulder injury. Hodge didn't practice Wednesday. The backup has been sidelined the last two games.

-- S Atari Bigby might miss a third straight game because of a hamstring injury. The backup didn't practice Wednesday.

By the Numbers
9 -- Regular seasons in their 88-year history the Packers have ended with at least four straight wins. Green Bay enters Sunday night's regular-season finale at Chicago on a season-high three-game winning streak. All of those instances in which the Packers closed the season with a flurry resulted in a winning record: 2003 (10-6), 2000 (9-7), 1997 (13-3), 1996 (13-3), 1966 (12-2), 1959 (7-5), 1941 (10-1), 1939 (9-2) and 1923 (7-2-1). The Packers are 7-8 this season.

Quote to Note
"It's the Packers versus the Bears. It's an important football game. And, that's why they play 16 games. Our focus is on getting to 8-8. There's a lot of positive factors that come out of being 8-8. Everyone wants to talk about the playoffs, but I think there are a number of other positive factors that we can attain: 5-1 in the division, finish with four (wins) in a row, carry it into the off-season. We're really focused on winning the football game."
-- Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on the final regular-season game Sunday night at Chicago, which could have postseason implications for Green Bay.

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