GREEN BAY – The Packers got the help they needed Sunday.
Now the question is whether they can maximize on it.
San Francisco pulled out a last-second, 48-46 shootout victory at New Orleans shortly after Green Bay's triumph over Washington concluded. Setting aside the NFC West for the moment, those results have pulled the NFC North leaders and NFC South champs (the Saints have already clinched) into a tie at 10-3 in the race for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
But the Packers are actually the team in control, because they have just two conference losses to the Saints' three. So a 13-3 mark will get Green Bay a bye, regardless of how the NFC West shakes out between San Francisco (11-2) and Seattle (10-2 heading into Sunday night vs. the Rams).
Winning out and sweeping three NFC North foes to close the regular season will be a tough task, though, one that appears even tougher given the way the Packers struggled to put away the now 3-10 Redskins in the 20-15 decision at Lambeau Field.
It's one game at a time, as they always say, and the Packers will take this position over any other at the moment.
Following Sunday's game, Head Coach Matt LaFleur made no secret of the Packers' need to improve. The field position and opportunities presented should have produced far more than 20 points.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a little more relaxed, saying the Packers were good enough. That's been what has defined this team in most of its victories this season, and while Rodgers rattled off missed throws and other mistakes that made Sunday a tough slog after a 14-0 start, he remains confident the offense will find the more consistent level everyone's waiting for.
"Winning is the only thing that matters," Rodgers said. "Even in the midst of some of these games that aren't great flow the entire time, we are winning. We expect to win games when the defense holds them to less than 20 points.
"We'll find our rhythm. I'm not worried about that on offense. We'll keep getting the ball to our playmakers and figure out what's going to work that week."
Things have been very game-plan oriented week to week, and perhaps Rodgers didn't take the podium sounding a bunch of alarm bells because the offense was in position plenty of times, and so close to breaking the game open.
A play-action throwback to Jimmy Graham for a big play was just barely out of reach. Rodgers fumbled inside the Washington 30 late in the second quarter. He said he missed an open Allen Lazard for one potential conversion.
Come to think of it, much of what Rodgers mentioned in his postgame press conference falls on him. He wasn't super sharp on Sunday. Maybe that's why he's not concerned, because he knows a play here or there that he normally makes changes the whole outlook on Sunday's game.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 14 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.
He didn't say it quite that way, but it's a possible interpretation. He was definitely glad to see Aaron Jones have a big day and Graham get involved early. The Packers won without Davante Adams (four catches, 41 yards) or Jamaal Williams (seven carries, 24 yards) doing much, so there's certainly more offense to be found.
But Rodgers also isn't overly sweating it because he's seen how this team goes about its business. The film is critiqued thoroughly, the leadership in the locker room is keeping everyone together, and the players believe they're going to find a way.
The operation and attitude matter, and they're worth more than style points to a quarterback who's seen it all and is trying to get back to the postseason for the first time in three years.
Rodgers, with his postgame scotch waiting at home, is going to enjoy the wins however they come, and then get back to work Monday. He knows this team isn't there yet, but he also believes it's not as far off as it might look or as some have declared.
"I can't really tell you what the magic recipe is moving forward, but I can tell you it feels really good to be 10-3 and it feels good to be on that side answering questions about how can you be more dynamic after the win than what the hell is wrong with the team," he said.
"It might be ugly at times to some folks … but I wouldn't mind winning ugly all the way to the Super Bowl."