Mega test just ahead for Packers

With two road games after bye, team in danger of skidding out of control

Make no mistake about it, Sunday's game at Lambeau Field against the Washington Redskins could determine the fate of the Green Bay Packers. Seem a little far-fetched? Just wait.

A week ago at this time Packers Nation was thinking division title, NFC title and Super Bowl title. Then a second-half debacle to the Bears changed all that thought, at least temporarily it has.

Now think about Sunday's game. What if the Packers lose again? Two straight losses at home heading into the bye and only four more home games left. Furthermore, coming out of the bye, the Packers have road games at Denver and Kansas City.

Last week's loss could be just a speed bump on the way to a good to great season or it could've been the start of something bad. On Sunday, the Packers need to throw away the memories of last week and move on.

"There's 75, 85 percent of the things we're doing week in and week out that we need to continue doing," coach Mike McCarthy said. "You can't lose sight of that. That's much better than the way we've played in the past.

"This football team is improving. It's just what's happening is that other 15 or 20 percent that the drop off is too low. We just have to get a better level of consistency when things don't go our way."

The key since the fourth game in the 1992 season – Brett Favre's first start for the Packers - has been Favre. When he plays well, so do the Packers. Last week, for a half, he was unbelievable, completing 19 of 22 passes (two incompletions were spikes) and then slowly in the second half things fell apart and he looked somewhat like Rex Grossman. He threw a bonehead interception into the waiting hands of Brian Urlacher deep in Packers territory. The next play, the Bears scored and the beginning of the end started.

But instead of reliving bad memories, let's think positive.

Here's what a win does:

First, it means Favre played well. For three and a half games, Favre was playing like an MVP, but as some people would say, "Here comes the gunslinger," when he makes poor decisions. People are leery of Favre right now and a good performance Sunday would ease many minds. He's the pulse of this team, which is why the last two seasons it hasn't been so great.

Second, a win puts the Packers at 5-1 instead of 4-2. That's four games above .500, not two. In the final 10 games, the Packers could go 5-5 and likely secure the division title at 10-6.

Also, heading into the bye week, the Packers would be feeling good about themselves. At 5-1, there's not much room for being better. Go into the bye with two straight losses and come out of it with two straight road games? Talk about the possibility of things heading south in a hurry.

Even though this is the first half of the season, there are games at some point throughout a year which determine what type of season it could be. Last week after the Bears beat the Packers, a reporter muttered the thought a loss like the Packers took could send them on an eight-game losing streak. That may be exaggeration, but you get the point.

I don't think it will, but sometimes you can't see a trainwreck coming.

And beating the Redskins won't be easy.

"This team coming in here, the Washington Redskins, just on watching the film, is the best team that we've played to date," McCarthy said. "Just based on what we've seen on film." Fast-forward two months, when we're putting presents under the Christmas tree and drinking egg nog. We may look back at Oct. 14 as the key game in this season. A win stems the tide and the Packers take a drive to a division title not many of us saw coming.

But a loss and it could spell a collapse some teams in recent memory in the NFL have taken. Coaches will utter the cliché that all games count the same, which in one way they do. However, something tells me McCarthy knows how the outcome against the Redskins could affect this team for the rest of 2007.

It's a must-win in October. Usually, that's only set aside for major league baseball teams.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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