GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Most NFL teams reach a critical juncture in their season, when the sense of urgency is heightened.
The motivational signs coach Mike McCarthy places in the locker room on a weekly basis told the story. This week, they contained one word: "Urgency."
"Hell yeah," McCarthy said when asked if the sense of urgency is heightened. "It's all over the locker room; you guys see the signs."
Eight teams in the NFC have better records than the Packers, and one other team has matched them at 5-5.
"I'm not big into playoff picture; I think it's a waste of time," McCarthy said. "You really have to stay focused on what you're doing. That's really a message to our football team. We have more to give and we all need to give it."
That message appears to have been received.
Perhaps that's why quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has not spoken to reporters since he broke his collarbone Nov. 4, felt the need to speak to the media in the locker room Wednesday.
"This is why football is a team sport; it's about the other 52 guys on the active roster and guys picking up the slack," Rodgers said. "We've dealt with injuries around here for a long time. It's a next-man-up mentality. It's tough to be out there obviously because I love playing. I'm just trying to help out as much as I can."
While playing without Rodgers for an extended period of time is new for the Packers, entering the final stretch of the season with their playoff hopes in doubt is not. In 2009, the Packers were 4-4 but went on to win seven of their last eight to finish at 11-5 and earn a wild-card playoff berth. In 2010, they were 8-6 and needed to win their last two games in order to get into the playoffs. They did and went on to win the Super Bowl.
"Every year you have a point in your season where things aren't going as smoothly as you thought they would and you've really got to crack down and start playing your best football," right guard T.J. Lang said.
"We're one game out of the division lead right now, but we understand that with six games left there's really no more room for error. It's time to start playing our best football as a team and doing anything you've got to do to get a win because, like coach said on Monday, this is really starting to turn into a playoff atmosphere. We can't really afford to lose any more games. That's kind of been our mindset, going into these games feeling like the underdog, like it's us against the world, and we've got to do what we've got to do to get a win."