Expect Packers to thaw, rebound

Sunday's loss at Chicago was troubling, but it shouldn't derail McCarthy and Co. McCarthy has pushed all the right buttons this season, and he'll have the Packers ready for a flawed divisional playoff opponent, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

Cinderella's night was ruined when her chariot turned back into a pumpkin. Mike McCarthy's Christmas was ruined when his red-hot Packers turned into blocks of ice in the Windy City.

Who would have guessed the Packers' divisional-round playoff opponent would be so trivial compared to the weather Mother Nature will send to Lambeau Field for the weekend of Jan. 12-13?

Whether the Packers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks or New York Giants in the divisional playoffs is practically irrelevant after watching the Packers freeze their way to an embarrassing loss on Sunday at cold and windy Chicago.

The only things that matter are the weather and, if Jack Frost is again nipping at the Packers' noses and fingers, whether they have the heart to put forth a decent effort or if they'd rather just hang out in front of the heaters and discuss the merits of hot cocoa vs. coffee.

Look, I didn't want to go outside on Sunday, either. Neither did the dogs, for that matter. But I don't count $11 million against the salary cap, as Brett Favre does.

Luckily for the Packers, the loss — while disheartening — doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.

When the Packers were winning without a running game in September and October, the fear was they wouldn't be able to continue winning once the weather turned bad. Then, Ryan Grant burst onto the scene, and that fear was diminished.

Well, look what happened at Chicago. Outside of two big runs, the Packers couldn't run the ball a lick against a beat-up Bears defense. With no running game and a passing game that was simply blown away, the Packers' offense looked about as powerful as a sports car in a blizzard.

So, an NFC championship game in Dallas probably isn't the worst thing for these Packers.

But first, they have to get to Dallas. Regardless of what happened in Chicago, the odds are pretty good.

For one reason, there's the aforementioned weather. The pass-first Packers couldn't function mentally or physically at Chicago. As long as it's a typical January afternoon in Green Bay, the Packers will be fine. Yes, Green Bay is cold in the winter, but it's not exactly the North Pole. And even if the weather is terrible, you'd think the Packers wouldn't be so quick to roll over and curl up in a ball to stay warm in front of the home folks.

Second, there's history. In the last 10 playoffs — dating to the 1997 regular season, when the second-seeded Packers advanced to the Super Bowl — the 20 second-seeded teams are 14-6 in their divisional playoff games.

Third, there's the McCarthy factor. When the Packers dropped their first game of the season, they bounced back by winning six straight. When the Packers lost for a second time, they won their next two games by a combined 71-21.

Plus, McCarthy has a good feel for what his team needs. He went easy on them in training camp, and the Packers responded by starting 4-0. After giving the team a long break during the bye, the Packers won their next five games. With a mini-break after the Thursday loss at Dallas, McCarthy gave his team a couple days off, and they showed their thanks by crushing Oakland and St. Louis.

With that track record, expect McCarthy to make the right moves this week against Detroit and during the bye.

And finally, while the Packers were downright horrible against the Bears, it's not as if their possible divisional playoff foes are on a roll. Seattle just lost to Carolina and its fourth-string quarterback. Tampa Bay just lost to woeful San Francisco and its third-string quarterback. The Giants haven't played a good game in two months.

It's easy to overreact, especially to the negative. But as long as the divisional playoff game isn't Ice Bowl II, expect the Packers to bounce back.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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