GREEN BAY – By winning their opener for the first time in four years, the Packers put a stop to one frustrating trend this season. Now it’s time to end another.
The Packers have lost the game heading into their bye week each of the last two seasons, and while the team has recovered just fine each time following the break, no one likes to carry a defeat with them for an extra week.
“Losing (stinks),” receiver Randall Cobb said. “The more you have to think about it, the worse it is.”
Added cornerback Casey Hayward: “You don’t want to sit on a loss. It’s just the competitive nature in everybody. If we come off a loss, you want to get back out there right away and compete again.”
The Packers won’t have that chance if they lose to the Chargers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. While anyone in the NFL would take a 5-1 record through six weeks, it would still feel like a disappointment the way Green Bay is playing.
To their credit, the Packers haven’t let the pre-bye defeats of the past two years affect them negatively. In fact, they’ve used them to right the ship.
A four-turnover debacle in Cincinnati two years ago heading into a Week 4 bye was followed by a four-game winning streak – with just two turnovers total – before quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.
The defensive meltdown in New Orleans last year prior to the midseason bye prompted the schematic change with Clay Matthews that sparked a five-game win streak and has made him the literal and figurative centerpiece of the Dom Capers defense seen today.
This week, the focus is on the offense snapping out of its mini-funk before the bye, which would be better than having questions and concerns linger until next month.
Should the Packers stay unbeaten, the sole focus coming back will be the week-to-week approach the team has taken to this point. It’s engrained to the point Mike McCarthy said earlier this week he didn’t want to hear any players talking about the bye or their vacation ideas.
“I’d like to think this team understands what’s at stake,” Matthews said. “For the most part, we’re focused on this week, getting this win, and getting to 6-0 before this bye week. That would be a great taste in our mouth as opposed to coming up short and not having a week to bounce back. That’s the plan.”
A bye always benefits a team’s health. Right guard T.J. Lang (knee) looks to play banged up this week, but the week off will do him some good regardless. Same for receivers Randall Cobb (shoulder) and James Jones (hamstring), who haven’t missed games but need healing time.
Whether or not receiver Davante Adams (ankle), safety Morgan Burnett (calf) and defensive lineman B.J. Raji (groin) return from their injuries on Sunday, the bye will help them and outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder), too.
Win or lose, the Packers are headed into a post-bye schedule that has playoff prep written all over it. Road trips to unbeaten Denver (which also has a bye next week) and Carolina await, followed by four consecutive division games, one of which is a visit to Green Bay’s closest competitor in the NFC North, Minnesota.
The Broncos game and the first head-to-head meeting between Rodgers and Peyton Manning since 2008 will spark a mid-season hype fest like no other, particularly if both teams stay undefeated this week.
Might as well win on Sunday and maximize on the hype prep that appears headed this team’s way, too.
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