GREEN BAY – This is how any team would want to be going into the playoffs.
Green Bay’s six straight wins were basically a requirement to qualify, but they also established a mentality the Packers will draw upon as their postseason begins on Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Giants.
Last year, the Packers dropped their final two regular-season games, including the NFC North-deciding contest vs. the Vikings, before righting things temporarily in the wild-card round at Washington.
Back in 2012, the Packers saw a first-round bye go out the window at Minnesota in Week 17, and it changed the entire outlook for January.
This year’s team has had its back up against the proverbial wall since Thanksgiving and has repeatedly dealt with “moving parts” on the roster and in the game plan week after week.
Yet it has continued to prevail for six straight games, up to and including Sunday night’s 31-24 triumph in Detroit to win the NFC North, so there’s nothing it doesn’t believe it can’t overcome.
“Momentum and confidence is real big,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, roughly 12 hours after the Packers’ return flight landed in Green Bay. “This is definitely the way you want to come in. We’ve limped in before, rested players, and so forth. There’s no doubt with this team.
“Last night’s game was a microcosm of the season. Guys go down, this one jumps in and you keep going. With that comes a lot of confidence to do whatever you have to do to win the game. That’s the way we’re wired this year and we’ll take that into this contest Sunday.”
McCarthy didn’t update the Packers’ banged-up cornerback group, except to say that Quinten Rollins has returned to Green Bay after spending the night in a Detroit hospital. There are more tests to run on his injured neck, but McCarthy said “everything is progressing in a positive manner.”
Fellow corners Damarious Randall (knee) and Makinton Dorleant (knee) plus inside linebacker Joe Thomas (back) also left the Lions game, and McCarthy expects to have a better idea where everyone stands on Tuesday as the coaches put together the game plan.
Receiver Randall Cobb (ankle) would appear to have a better chance of playing this week after sitting out the last two games.
As for the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning, who have beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field in the teams’ last two postseason meetings, McCarthy said very little applies from games that occurred nine and five years ago, respectively.
He joked that current Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was on McCarthy’s staff for those two games, is probably still sore about those losses, just as McCarthy is, but that’s the emotional nature of playoff football.
“We’ll stay in tune with the matchups,” McCarthy said. “I don’t even know how many players were on each one of those teams. Playoff losses are tough, but they don’t really factor into this game.”
The Giants, at 11-5, come into the playoffs having handed the NFC’s top-seeded Cowboys their only two meaningful losses of the season, and New York has found a ground game it didn’t have when the Packers beat the Giants at Lambeau back in Week 5.
For the 10-6 Packers, it’s all about belief, because they clung to it when the outside world thought there was no reason to.
They’re hot, they’re confident, and they’ll be ready.
“They’re made of the right stuff,” McCarthy said of his team. “They have a great attitude, great energy, and I think we demonstrated that Sunday night in Detroit.
“We dug ourselves a hole at 4-6. We’re out of it now and the real challenge will start. It’s playoff football, and it’s a one-game season.”