Sunday's game at Arizona might not have had any bearing on the standings or playoff seeding, but it meant plenty for Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who wanted the team to be entering the postseason on a high note.
Mission accomplished. With a dominating 33-7 victory over the Cardinals, the Packers enter next weekend's playoff rematch by winning seven of their last eight games. The offense is humming, the defense appears to have found solid ground after the loss at Pittsburgh and the special teams no longer appear to be an issue.
"I feel very good about our football team," McCarthy said on Monday evening. "It's like anything: You're trying to build as far as the vision, the plan. I like the way our football team looks right now. I like the energy they're playing with, I like the way they prepare, and I like the way they're focused, and we'll be totally in tune with the fact that playoff football is different."
The Cardinals are the defending NFC champions and the Packers played for the NFC championship in 2007. Fifteen of the starters from that team are starters on this team: Greg Jennings, Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Mark Tauscher, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, Charles Woodson, Atari Bigby, Nick Collins and Mason Crosby.
"We have a group of men that experienced this two years ago," McCarthy said. "We have a group of men that have not experienced it. Through our week of preparation, I'm looking for a focused, disciplined week of preparation, and we're getting ready to go play Arizona. We're playing an opponent on the road, they're the defending NFC champions, they've won their division. There's definitely some challenge of playing a little bit uphill, and that's the mind-set we're taking into this game."
McCarthy said cornerback Charles Woodson suffered a shoulder sprain during Sunday's game at Arizona. Woodson had been battling the problem since the Chicago game, and McCarthy didn't think the latest injury would impact Woodson's practice schedule. That likely means he'd be limited on Wednesday.
"I fully expect him to be ready to go for Arizona," he said.
Meanwhile, from Arizona, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has "good range of motion" in his knee and should be fine for Sunday. Receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle and knee) is more iffy, but considering his history of toughness — he missed only two games after needing surgery to fix his face and jaw after being creamed late in the game against the Jets last season — he'll probably play, too.
Kevin Greene for Hall of Fame?
The list of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced on Friday in an NFL Network special that starts at 3 p.m. Central.
Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene is one of 25 semifinalists. The Class of 2010 will be selected from the 15 finalists on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.
"Being in Canton, Ohio, would be the ultimate recognition of the production you had on game day," Greene told Packer Report for a feature in the next magazine. "It'd be neat to have that bestowed upon me but I'm really at peace about how I played. I hit people, and they know it. I'm good with it. It'd be neat if it happened but I'd be at peace about it."
If the Packers were to lose on Sunday at Arizona, they'd hold the 23rd selection in April's draft.
The nonplayoff teams get the first 20 spots, with the four losers next weekend getting spots Nos. 21 through 24. The loser of Dallas (11-5) and Philadelphia (11-5) would get pick No. 24. The Packers, also 11-5, would pick ahead of them based on a weaker schedule.
To see the complete list, click here.
We mentioned the Packers' 2010 schedule on Sunday. If you're interested in all 32 teams' schedules, click here.
We detailed a bunch of the Packers' record setters on Sunday. The Packers' public-relations staff handed out a similar list on Monday. Among the fresh nuggets:
— The Packers led the NFL in time of possession, hogging the ball for 33:03. That's the best mark since the team began tracking the figure in 1977.
— The Packers finished plus-164 in scoring differential. Only New Orleans at plus-169 had a larger margin. Green Bay's 461 points set a team record.
— By now, you know the Packers led the NFL in rushing defense for the first time in franchise history. It's probably not surprising, but did you know that their move from No. 26 in the rankings to No. 1 was the biggest jump in team history?
— The Packers led the NFL with a plus-24 turnover margin, had the fewest giveaways with 16 and the most takeaways with 40. The 30 interceptions marked the first time the Packers led the league since tying Washington for No. 1 in 1965, and that figure was the most since picking off 30 passes in 1981.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.