Not an easy road for the Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With or without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the task facing the Green Bay Packers over the final month of the season is monumental.

As coach Mike McCarthy said less than 24 hours after Thursday’s 40-10 loss at the Detroit Lions, the Packers believe they have to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs. Even a four-game winning streak to close the season might not be enough.

The best the Packers can do is 9-6-1.

Perhaps this mini bye following the Thanksgiving game will give them a chance to regroup -- and perhaps more importantly get Rodgers back from his broken collarbone -- before the Atlanta Falcons come to Lambeau Field on Dec. 8.

“We have a big opportunity,” McCarthy said Friday. “It’s an NFC game. It is at home to get back to .500, and we’ll see what happens. Us having a tie on our record may be something very positive or it may be something very negative. We will see what happens.”

Humiliating losses like the one the Packers suffered Thursday can ruin a team or galvanize it. In McCarthy’s history, they have done both. In 2006, his first season, they came off a 28-point thrashing by the New York Jets for their third straight loss to fall to 4-8 but went on to win their last four games of the season.

Two years later, they were blown out by the New Orleans Saints 51-29 on "Monday Night Football," and it spiraled into a five-game losing streak near the end of a 6-10 season and helped play a role in McCarthy’s decision to fire defensive coordinator Bob Sanders.

“There’s not a man that’s coached or played in this league that hasn’t had his ass beat, OK?” McCarthy said. “And that’s what happened to us.”

The Packers will reconvene Monday, and it will be interesting to see whether McCarthy spends much time looking back at what has gone awry during the 0-4-1 stretch since Rodgers last stepped foot on the field in the first quarter of the Nov. 4 game against the Chicago Bears or if he tries to start fresh for the stretch drive.

“We’ve got to take a long, hard look at what we’re doing and find a way to get better,” Packers guard T.J. Lang said. “We’ve got four games left now.”

Of the top three teams in the NFC North, the first-place Lions have the easiest remaining schedule, followed by the Packers and then the Bears.

Before you mess around with the ESPN Playoff Machine, here’s a look at the remaining schedules for the top three teams in the NFC North:

Detroit (7-5)

  • at Philadelphia (6-5)

  • vs. Baltimore (6-6)

  • vs. New York Giants (4-7)

  • at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Opponents’ combined record: 18-26-1 (.411 winning percentage)

Chicago (6-5)

  • at Minnesota (2-8-1)

  • vs. Dallas (7-5)

  • at Cleveland (4-7)

  • at Philadelphia (6-5)

  • vs. Green Bay (5-6-1)

Opponents’ combined record: 24-31-2 (.439 winning percentage)

Green Bay (5-6-1)

  • vs. Atlanta (2-9)

  • at Dallas (7-5)

  • vs. Pittsburgh (5-7)

  • at Chicago (6-5)

Opponents’ combined record: 20-26 (.435 winning percentage)