Perhaps no team could use an upcoming bye week as badly as the banged-up Green Bay Packers, but that still doesn't trump the value of a win for a 5-3 team tied for second place in its division.
The 4-4 Arizona Cardinals come to Lambeau Field on Sunday, and as far as Head Coach Mike McCarthy is concerned, a loss could undermine all the good some time off will do for his team's lengthy injury list.
"The players have a clear understanding of the importance of this game," said McCarthy, who made it equally clear on Wednesday that he has no interest in talking about the bye. "I think we've made the mistake of maybe looking forward to the bye week in the past. We're not going to make that mistake this week."
That's a curious comment, considering the Packers have won four of their last five pre-bye games under McCarthy, but he clarified that he was referring more to the preparation during the week, not the result at the end of it. In other words, in doing things right, the former will take care of the latter.
"We made a big point as a staff and as a football team today to make sure the urgency is heightened," McCarthy said. "We're getting ready to do whatever we need to do to win this game, and we're pouring everything we've got into this game."
The players apparently have been given an added incentive, too. Receiver James Jones said they'll get a couple of extra days off if they win, but the players know it's also about enjoying their midseason rest, and extending the team's current winning streak to four games will make the mental break as nice as the physical one, however long it is.
"Going into a bye week, anytime you can get a win, it's more comforting," guard T.J. Lang said. "You never want to lose a game, especially before the bye week, because you have really two weeks to think about instead of just one. It's important for us to try to get to 6-3. That's where we want to be after our second quarter of football."
The Cardinals are at similar crossroads in their season, except they're trying to turn things around rather than keep going on their current path.
Since starting 4-0, Arizona has lost four straight and is headed into its bye week as well, and the difference between 5-4 or 4-5 is significant, for many reasons. Up and down is as apt a description as any for their season, with one big swing each way, as opposed to the multiple swings the Packers experienced over the first six weeks.
The Cardinals may have hit a low this past Monday, losing badly at home in prime time to NFC West rival San Francisco, 24-3. According to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, that makes them perhaps as dangerous as the Packers were after their embarrassing second-half meltdown in Indianapolis four weeks ago.
"I think you have to expect the up," said Rodgers, who spearheaded the Packers' current upswing with his six-TD performance in Houston the week after the Indy loss. "When there's been a little inconsistency, you have to expect them to come in and play their best game. They're a team with a lot of veteran leadership with a lot of pride.
"We know what it feels like to be beaten down and have people kind of telling you that you're struggling and how annoying that can be at times, and how you just want to get back on the field and prove them wrong."
McCarthy, on the other hand, would like the Packers to prove they can hone their edge to its sharpest point of the season over the next few days. His certainly seems to be there already.
"I don't want to talk about the bye week. I'll just say it," McCarthy said. "I don't really want to hear about how much time we're going to have off, what we're going to do, because that's losing your focus. We're focused on the Cardinals." Additional coverage - Oct. 31