GREEN BAY – Last Sunday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was already welcoming the underdog label for the Packers this week when he stood at the podium in Washington following a third straight loss.
On Wednesday, he reinforced that the entire squad might as well buy in as it heads to Buffalo for a primetime matchup with the 5-1, Super Bowl-aspiring Bills.
But he has specific reasons for saying so.
"Every year, you've got to re-learn how to win," is one he expresssed. The other? Feel what it's like to play with less pressure and no outside expectations. It might provide a mental reset.
"I just think that sometimes when you're in a rut, and you've lost some games in a row, it's not a bad thing to kind of embrace that underdog role, embrace the fact that no one's expecting you to win, and in that scenario you can maybe play a little freer," Rodgers said.
"Maybe the pressure loosens up a little bit. Maybe in your mind you can slow things down a little bit. I know that's what I'll be doing this week and hopefully a lot of the guys as well."
Rodgers made the comments after missing his third straight Wednesday practice due to his injured thumb, though he was at practice calling plays and coaching up his teammates.
When the schedule was first released back in the spring, Green Bay at Buffalo on Sunday Night Football looked like potentially one of the league's biggest regular-season games in 2022.
The Bills, behind MVP candidate Josh Allen at quarterback, are coming off a bye and have held up their end, looking like a championship contender. The Packers have not, scuffling to a 3-4 record and trying to snap the team's first three-game losing streak in four years.
"You can be a dangerous team when you feel like you have a lot to prove, and when you're kind of counted out," Rodgers said. "So I welcome us being counted out as much as possible. I've always enjoyed that feeling. And for these guys who have a lot to prove, hopefully they embrace that as well.
"It's time to make a name for yourself in this league, and a lot of guys are going to get opportunities on Sunday. On national TV, with millions and millions of people watching — a great time for some of those guys to step into the limelight."
Specifically, Rodgers was referring to the Packers' receiving corps, which is very much in flux this week.
Sammy Watkins returned from a hamstring injury last week, but Randall Cobb is now on injured reserve with a bad ankle. Allen Lazard hurt his shoulder in Washington and did not practice Wednesday. Rookie Christian Watson did practice in a limited capacity as he works his way back from a troublesome hamstring.
Last week against the Commanders, the injury situation led to rookie Samori Toure making his first NFL reception, while second-year pro Amari Rodgers caught two passes. Juwann Winfree, who has been elevated from the practice squad multiple times already this season, would be another option.
The offensive line remains a work in progress, too, as last week's reshuffled unit heads into its second game with Elgton Jenkins at left guard, Jon Runyan at right guard and Yosh Nijman at right tackle. Rookie Zach Tom filled in at left tackle for David Bakhtiari, who was back at practice on a limited basis Wednesday dealing with his knee.
The Packers have dealt with injuries at receiver and uncertainty up front plenty of times before, but maybe not so much all at once. Regardless, the quarterback's thought of playing loose and free is being heard.
"Honestly, just have fun," Watkins said. "I think if we go out there and have fun and have each other's back great things can happen. We haven't done that so far yet, but this would be the perfect game to do it on."
Added defensive tackle Kenny Clark: "Yeah, nobody gives us a chance to win. We gotta come out and play our best ball. Both sides, play complementary football, and we'll see what happens."
Indeed, everyone will. The Vegas oddsmakers have the Bills favored by 10-plus points, the first time in Rodgers' career the point spread is tilted that far against the Packers.
"Yeah, I love it," Rodgers said. "It's kind of rare, which means we've won a lot of games around here. But to be a double-digit underdog is a different spot for us, and I hope we embrace that role, because it's probably not going to be like this for a while."