GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy has long talked about the importance of getting to “double-digit” wins. According to the Green Bay Packers coach, a team can’t even begin to start thinking about playoff berths and other postseason goals.
So while McCarthy did manage to slip in the fact that he’s both well aware of and unafraid of how the talk of an undefeated season will continue intensify with each victory, he also made it clear that the team’s immediate goal is to clinch the NFC North title.
“I don't feel any pressure by (being undefeated),” McCarthy said after the Packers improved to 11-0 last Thursday with their Thanksgiving Day victory at Detroit. “It's a great place to be. It's nice to be undefeated and to be part of those conversations. Anybody would like to be part of those conversations. But really, not to be cliché, it's about the next game. Because if you don't get No. 12, that talk's over.
“We won't shy away from the talk if we get to that, but it's a hypothetical situation. We're focused on winning our division right now.”
And with a little help, the Packers could accomplish that first goal on Sunday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
As ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert pointed out Monday, the Packers can clinch the NFC North title Sunday if they beat the Giants and the Lions lose to the New Orleans Saints. The Saints blew out the Giants, 49-24, on Monday Night Football.
With a victory, the Packers would improve to 12-0, while a Lions loss would drop Ndamukong Suh & Co. to 7-5, leaving them five games back with four to play.
And even if the Packers lost their remaining four games – vs. Oakland Dec. 11, at Kansas City Dec. 18, vs. Chicago Dec. 25 and vs. Detroit Jan. 1. – they would still win the division over the Bears if both teams finished 12-4. In that scenario, the teams would split their two head-to-head games and have the same division record (4-2) and common opponents record (the Bears’ losses are to the Packers, Saints, Lions and Raiders), meaning the applicable tiebreaker would be conference record. The Packers would be 10-2, while the Bears would be 9-3.
The defending Super Bowl champions obviously have bigger goals than their first NFC North title since 2007, but a division title would be the first step toward securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Currently, the Packers hold a two-game lead over NFC West-leading San Francisco (9-2) in that race, while New Orleans stands at 8-3.
“I think (home-field advantage) is important. We haven’t had a home game in the playoffs since 2007,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’ll return from four days off along with his teammates on Tuesday. “It’s on our mind. Winning the division’s our first goal – (we) haven’t done that the last couple of years. If we can do that, we’ve got a home game in Green Bay.”
A first-round bye wouldn’t be bad, either, but as McCarthy continues to preach, one thing at a time.
“We're 11-0. Once you get to 11 wins, 12 wins, you can see that division championship is in sight and that's our focus,” McCarthy said. “Then once we get that, the next focus will be home-field advantage and the focus after that is winning the Super Bowl. Those were the goals we laid out Day 1.
“That has always been the goal in Green Bay in my time there and that will continue to be the goal. If we get into the situation where we can address the bonus goal (of going undefeated), we'll definitely talk about it. But we're here to win the division. Once we win the division, then we'll concentrate on Goal No. 2."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.