With the Minnesota Vikings two games ahead and the Chicago Bears one game up in the NFC North standings, the Packers' prospects for winning the division title don't look promising.
And there's virtually no promise at all if the Packers don't win each of their last four games to finish with a 9-7 record, and even then they'll need some help.
But for a team that has lost four of its last five and seven of its last 10 games, talk of a potential four-game winning streak is meaningless. As the old saying goes, you can't win them all unless you win the first one, and the first one is Houston on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
"We need to beat the Houston Texans," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Everybody talks about one game at a time. We need to get better today with the corrections that we've had really the last two weeks. We need to correct that and we need to have a good week of preparation."
Preparation doesn't seem to be an issue, but closing out games has. The Packers are 1-4 this season in games decided by a touchdown or less, having lost four in a row since a season-opening 24-19 win over Minnesota.
That's in stark contrast to the team's 5-1 mark in the same types of close games a year ago. Sometimes it's the way the ball bounces, but more often than not it's an indication of life in the NFL when a team isn't sharp in all three phases.
Or, as McCarthy pointed out, doesn't have one segment of the team making up for any shortcomings in another.
"When the offense isn't humming, the defense picks the offense up," McCarthy said. "No different than special teams. That's why they call it a team. Every phase needs to pick up the other phase when it's not going well."
Arguably, there's been one segment sorely lacking in each of the last three losses. At Minnesota, the offense scored just 13 points. At New Orleans, the defense surrendered 51. And against Carolina, the special teams allowed three kickoff returns near or to midfield, all setting up Panthers' touchdowns.
"We're playing in lopsided football games the last two weeks, and that's hard to overcome, where a certain area has been way out of bounds, as far as our production against our opponent," McCarthy said. "That's what we need to get fixed."
New punter on the way
McCarthy said punter Derrick Frost was being released on Monday, and the team would be moving on with a new punter for the final four games. At the time of his press conference, no official roster move was announced.
Frost's struggles were well-documented, and despite solid work in practice the last several weeks, McCarthy said Frost was simply unable to transfer his work from practices to the games.
"It's a performance industry. We all know that. And it did not transfer," McCarthy said. "And it was something that we felt that factored in some of the outcomes of our games, and we need to make a change."
In the last two weeks, poor punts gave each of the Packers' opponents starting field position on the Green Bay side of the 50, and both times the opponent scored touchdowns. New Orleans had a 41-yard TD drive after a 24-yard punt that went out of bounds, and Carolina had a 42-yard TD drive after a low 48-yard kick was returned 13 yards, for a net of just 35.
Frost was also the holder for Mason Crosby on extra points and field goals, and McCarthy said that job would now go to backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
Another new line
After watching the film, McCarthy confirmed that center Scott Wells indeed sustained a concussion on the series prior to his botched shotgun snap. But Wells didn't say anything at the time, so he didn't come out of the game right away.
"The communication I had with Scott after the fumble, I did not notice it, that he was in that state," McCarthy said. "Obviously no one noticed it before that or he would not have been out there."
Wells' departure forced Jason Spitz to take over at center and Josh Sitton to move in at right guard. McCarthy said he's not counting on having Wells available this week, and that the offensive line used Sunday would be the group moving forward.
The Packers have yet to start that lineup - Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher at the tackles, Spitz at center, and Daryn Colledge and Sitton at the guards - in the regular season. That unit started two of the four preseason games, against Cincinnati and Denver, before Sitton injured his knee against the Broncos.
"Josh stepped in there, Jason moved over and things kind of moved along without a whole lot of transition in there," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of Sunday's game. "If we need to do that again, we'll certainly be prepared."
Running back Ryan Grant's thumb sprain will probably force him to wear some sort of wrap or splint on his hand this week, so his playing status will depend on how well he can function holding onto the ball with that type of protection on, or if the protective wear can be trimmed down as the week goes on.
If Grant ends up unable to function properly, McCarthy expressed his confidence in backup Brandon Jackson, who rushed for a season-high 80 yards on just 11 carries on Sunday in Grant's place, including runs of 24 and 32 yards.
"We'll see how Ryan progresses this week with his injury, but we have no qualms about playing with Brandon in all of the situations," McCarthy said.
More on injuries
McCarthy said defensive end Kenny Pettway is lost for the season with a knee ligament tear, while safety Atari Bigby (shoulder) and defensive end Jeremy Thompson (ankle, knee) aren't likely to be able to play this week.
Safety Nick Collins (hip), defensive end Aaron Kampman (quad) and Tauscher (hamstring) could miss some practice time this week, but McCarthy didn't seem to think their game status was in jeopardy. Tauscher came out of Sunday's game no worse for the wear with the hamstring injury he sustained the previous week.