The Green Bay Packers got back to work this week and in talking to the guys, they feel rested, energized, and that an opportunity to get back into first place is right out in front of them. With a victory against Minnesota, there would be at least a two-way and potentially a three-way tie at the top of the NFC North as we roll into the home stretch.
I know everyone was disappointed with the 1-4 start, but to be in a situation where the Packers have won three straight and have a chance to tie for first place, the team's goals for 2004 are still very attainable.
I think everyone used this bye week well and it looks like the Packers are heading into the second half with a healthy team. I'm sure they not only healed up physically, but are doing well mentally as well.
When I was playing and we had a bye week, my first priority was always to get a lot of rest. I also would think about the plays that I could have made in the first half of the season - all the possible interceptions that I could have made. During that off-weekend, I would also think about how we let games slip away that we should have won.
One game that this year's Green Bay Packers team should have been thinking about that they let slip away from them was the loss at Lambeau Field to the Tennessee Titans. I know the score wasn't that close, but if some of the big plays in the first half could have been avoided had been, that would have been a totally different game.
I think one of the biggest things facing the Packers in the upcoming run of big games is that they understand just how big they are, and in all of my conversations with them, the magnitude of these games is definitely not lost on them.
Everyone in that locker room knows that Sunday's game against Minnesota and the Monday Night Football game against St. Louis coming up in a few weeks are games that this Packers must win to restore their home field advantage.
There are games on your schedule that you should win, and every game at Lambeau falls into that category. Winning at least six of these last eight games on the season is definitely achievable, but a key to that will be winning all four of these home games.
Taking advantage of playing in front of your home fans is imperative. That's why this upcoming game against the Vikings is a critical game for the Packers. After last year, those guys in purple feel like they can come into Lambeau and leave with a victory, but these Packers have to change that.
It's time to get started on the run to the finish line, and I think it's going to be quite a race. If the Packers play the way we all know they are capable of playing and have been playing lately, we all should be in for eight exciting games and more over the next few months.
*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.
Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*