A week after clinching their first division title since 2004, the Packers secured a bye in the first round of the NFC playoffs for the first time since 1997 by winning 33-14 at St. Louis on Sunday.
"Since I've been here, I've never had a first-round bye. So, to have that one, I'm going to cherish it for a long time because they don't come easy," ninth-year receiver Donald Driver said.
Before the Packers look forward to the week off they'll have in early January, however, a bigger reward might be within their grasp. Philadelphia's win at Dallas knocked the Cowboys into a tie with Green Bay for the NFC's best record at 12-2.
Although the Cowboys have the tiebreaker edge because of their 37-27 victory over the Packers on Nov. 29, the teams' remaining games could work in Green Bay's favor to get ahead of Dallas and earn home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. The Packers finish with Chicago on the road and Detroit at home. The Cowboys play both Carolina and Washington on the road.
So, with perhaps a lot riding on what transpires the next two weekends, McCarthy has to weigh having his team healthy for the postseason and possibly putting itself in the driver's seat to reach Super Bowl XLII if teams have to come to frigid Green Bay.
"I'd like to rest some of our veteran players down the stretch, if that's possible," McCarthy said. "A healthy football team is in a better position to play at a high level."
The Packers have been healthier than most teams. Yet, some notable veterans have endured aches and pains in recent weeks, including quarterback Brett Favre, cornerback Charles Woodson, offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher and defensive end Aaron Kampman.
Favre was knocked out of the Dallas game with a bruised throwing elbow and an aggravated separation of his non-throwing shoulder. The 38-year-old iron man bounced back to play in the last two games.
Although Green Bay had lopsided wins in both, McCarthy wasn't able to pull Favre. Top backup Aaron Rodgers was unavailable because of a hamstring injury, and recently signed No. 3 quarterback Craig Nall hadn't fully grasped the offensive system.
Favre tops another Marino record
Brett Favre took ownership of another league milestone in his season of record-breaking achievements.
He audibled out of a designed run play to throw a 7-yard slant pass to Driver early in the fourth quarter Sunday, moving Favre ahead of Dan Marino for most career passing yards.
Favre finished with 227 passing yards, giving him an all-time total of 61,405. Marino had 61,361.
Earlier in the season, Favre supplanted Marino as the league record holder for touchdown passes and pass attempts and jumped ahead of John Elway for wins.
"The fact that I've played in every game, to me, is probably my biggest feat," Favre said after starting his 251st straight regular-season game, a league record for quarterbacks. "None of these individual records would have happened had it not been for the fact that I've played in every game."
Packers player notes
-- DE Aaron Kampman made the start Sunday at St. Louis after he was considered questionable for the game because of back spasms, which kept him out of practice late last week. Kampman registered a sack, his team-leading 12th.
-- CB Jarrett Bush was deactivated for the first time this season, thanks to a calf strain suffered in the previous game. A rotation of Frank Walker, Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon filled the void at nickel back throughout Sunday's game.
-- FB Korey Hall suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and didn't return. Hall, a rookie, has started 11 games and is a key contributor on special teams.
-- TE Bubba Franks still isn't out of the woods with a sprained knee, which has kept him out of the last eight games. Franks was thought to be on track for a return to game action Sunday but had a setback in practice last week.
-- LB Tracy White was deactivated for the second straight game. The special-teams standout has been plagued by a lingering ankle injury.
Rams player notes
-- FS Oshiomogho Atogwe intercepted Favre twice to give him seven on the season and six in his last six games. The total is the most for a Rams player since Dexter McCleon had eight in 2000.
-- WR Derek Stanley was signed to the active roster from the practice squad Friday and made his NFL debut against the Packers as a kick returner. Stanley averaged just 20.2 yards on six kickoff returns with a long of 21. He had no punt returns because the Packers punted just once and it went into the end zone.
-- OT Rob Petitti missed his second straight game Sunday, the result of a concussion suffered Dec. 2 against Atlanta.
-- DT Claude Wroten was inactive for Sunday's game against Green Bay. It was the first game Wroten hasn't played since missing four games earlier in the season because of a league suspension.