GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The math is not in the Green Bay Packers’ favor when it comes to extending the team’s streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances.
And a possible return by star quarterback Aaron Rodgers may not even help.
In the wake of Sunday night’s last-second, 31-28 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers returned to work Monday at 5-6.
Eight teams in the NFC have better records, and three more (Dallas, Arizona and Washington) have the same record. That leaves Green Bay two games out of the final wild card spot and likely needing to win its final five games, starting this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to have reason for hope.
The Packers were 4-1 when Rodgers broke his collarbone early in a 23-10 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 15. They’ve now lost five of their last six, leaving little to no margin for error.
“Six losses. I mean, it is what it is,” McCarthy said Monday evening. “You can sit there and you can jump around and look at schedules and all that. I’m sure that’s fun for the fans (to look at) all the potential scenarios and all that. But at the end of the day, if you don’t get to 10 wins, to me there’s nothing else to talk about. We’re at five. We’ve got to get to six, and that’s what really it’s all about.”
That would mean winning the next two games without Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve Oct. 20. According to NFL rules, he could return to practice as early as Saturday, and the first game he’d be eligible to play in would be Dec. 17 at Carolina once the Packers designate him for possible return.
Rodgers threw passes before Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field but has yet to have an X-ray on this surgically repaired collarbone to see how much it has healed. Rodgers said last month that he would return only if the bone was fully healed and if it “made sense” for him to come back, meaning the Packers were still in playoff contention.
Asked whether Rodgers would practice Saturday, McCarthy replied, “We’ll see. … The A-No. 1 priority is to get him healthy. Practice is not something we’re really focused on right now.”
McCarthy called Rodgers’ appearance at Heinz Field “a great opportunity” to get some work in and take another step in his rehabilitation.
“Everything that they’re doing is calculated between the training (staff), the strength and conditioning (staff) and Aaron. As you would imagine, he’s going at it 120 miles an hour,” McCarthy said. “And so far, so good.
“There’s a plan laid out for Aaron, just like the other guys on IR. … We’ll see what the end of the week brings.”
NOTES: McCarthy said he wasn’t second-guessing himself for having kicker Mason Crosby attempt a 57-yard field goal with the Packers leading 21-14 in the third quarter. Crosby missed what would have been the longest field goal in Heinz Field history, and the Steelers took over at their own 47 and quickly drove for the game-tying touchdown. “I don’t really understand the criticism of it,” McCarthy said. … McCarthy also said that he did not consider going for a 2-point conversion when the Packers scored with 2:02 to play to pull within 28-27. Crosby kicked the extra point to tie the game. … Special teams coordinator Ron Zook, the former coach at Florida, had one small piece of advice for new Gators coach Dan Mullen. “It’ll be fun right now. He’s undefeated,” Zook said. “He better enjoy it.” … McCarthy said second-year player Jason Spriggs will be the team’s starting right tackle going forward in place of Bryan Bulaga, who is out for the year with a knee injury. Justin McCray, who initially replaced Bulaga, will be the first man off the bench as a versatile backup at all five positions.