Division Record Still A Source Of Pride


For a team that had a goal of repeating as NFC North champions, it would be a small consolation, but with games against Chicago and Detroit remaining on the schedule the Packers still have a chance to finish with the best record in the division.

Green Bay enters the final two games with a 3-1 divisional record this season, including wins over Minnesota and Chicago at Lambeau Field and a victory at Detroit. The Packers' only NFC North loss came in November at Minnesota in a 28-27 defeat.

If the Packers were able to finish the season with wins at Chicago and vs. Detroit, their 5-1 mark in the division would be the best in the NFC North for the third straight season. Last year Green Bay led with a 4-2 mark and they tied with Chicago in '06 at 5-1.

"This is the Chicago Bears," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "This is a rival football game. This is a game that when the schedule comes out at the beginning of the season everybody looks at. I know I do. I know our football team does. It's important for us to go down and win this game.

"We talk about the importance of division games, and this is a big one. That part has not changed. We know they are fired up to play us and trust me, it will be a physical game and we'll be ready to go when we step out there Monday night."

That importance placed on games in the division has been evident since McCarthy took the helm in 2006. In the last three seasons the Packers have a 12-4 (.750) mark in the NFC North, tops in the NFC for divisional records.

"It doesn't take much to understand that division games obviously mean more," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "You play them twice a year. You study each other. The coaching staff devotes time in the offseason studying teams in the division. They are important games."

The only teams in the NFL that the Packers trail over that span are San Diego (14-3, .824) and New England and Pittsburgh (both 13-4, .765).

"It's kind of hard to answer why that is because obviously we get up for every game and want to win every one, but I think there is a bit more sense of urgency with divisional games," cornerback Will Blackmon said. "If you win out in your division you've obviously got a pretty good chance to go to the playoffs."

Since the NFL went to its current eight-division format in 2002, 42 teams have finished with a record of 5-1 or better in their division. Of those 42, 32 won their division and seven made the playoffs. Only three missed the postseason, with the 2006 Packers being one of the three who fell short. That season Green Bay won five of six games in the NFC North but finished with an 8-8 record, narrowly missing out on a playoff bid.

The only other teams over that span to miss the playoffs despite having that kind of success in their division were the 2006 Carolina Panthers (5-1 in the NFC South, 8-8 overall) and the 2005 Minnesota Vikings (5-1 in the NFC North, 9-7 overall).

McCarthy has a 5-1 record against Minnesota and a 5-0 mark against Detroit as Packers head coach, with the Chicago Bears standing as the lone team in the division that Green Bay has a sub-.500 record against at 2-3. The Packers handed the Bears their most lopsided loss (37-3 in Week 10) in the series since 1980, and with Chicago still in the hunt for the NFC North title, the Bears shouldn't be lacking for motivation.

"We're going to beat the Chicago Bears; that's our mindset," McCarthy said. "We have no control over where they are in the playoff situation and so forth. We're going down there, it's a rival game, it's a division game, and we have a goal of finishing strong with our division record."

That emphasis on beating the teams in your division, especially a rival like Chicago, is felt by the players not just during the week at Lambeau Field.

{sportsad300}"Everybody understands that with divisional games, there is an added emphasis there across the board," center Scott Wells said. "You play each team twice and you are very familiar with them. All three of our division opponents are big rivalry games, and it's an old division so there is a lot of history there.

"It's kind of like when I went to college I picked up on how much Tennessee fans hated Alabama and it's the same way with Green Bay and Chicago. You go out and if they recognize me they wish me luck, more so than any other week."

While a 5-1 mark in the NFC North would be something to take away from a disappointing overall record, several players talked about the importance of getting a winning mindset back as they head into the offseason, no matter who the opponent is.

"I think right now in everybody's eyes it's about pride," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "We can't lose the next two games. We can't finish our season at 5-11. It just wouldn't look right.

"And then to be in our division, to lose two games in our division, that's just not what we want. Our goal right now is to make sure we take care of our business and do what we have to do."

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