With the Packers likely needing to win all four of their remaining games to have a chance to make the playoffs, they can lean on the fact that they have been one of the best teams in the league in the final quarter of the season over the last two years and this decade.
Since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006, the Packers have a combined record of 7-1 in their final four games of the season, including a 4-0 mark at Lambeau Field. Their only loss came Dec. 23, 2007, in a loss at Soldier Field to Chicago.
"I like playing here in December," McCarthy said. "I think it's great. I think it's definitely an advantage, and you play a particular team that's not used to it."
Since Houston entered the league as an expansion team in 2002, they have only played twice when game-time temperatures were below freezing. The first came at Chicago on Dec. 19, 2004 (12 degrees), and the second came two weeks ago at Cleveland. The Texans beat the Browns 16-6 with a game-time temperature of 30 degrees. Sunday's Green Bay forecast calls for a high in the teens.
"I know my years in New Orleans, they talk about your blood thinning out and everything. I can remember going to a game in Cincinnati, I thought it was 30 below zero and it was about 35 degrees, and I knew I'd been in the south too long," McCarthy said. "It factors. You think about it. You can say you don't, but I think human nature is to think about the weather a little bit."
The Packers' 7-1 mark in the last quarter of 2006-07 is tied for second-best in the NFL, trailing only the San Diego Chargers (8-0). The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are also 7-1 over the last two seasons.
Since 2000, Green Bay has a 26-6 (.813) record in the final quarter of the season, which is tops in the NFL. New England is second over that span at 25-7.
One adjustment the Packers make late in the season is the amount of time on the practice field and in meetings, switching to their "winter schedule." McCarthy said the team trims approximately 15 minutes off of each.
"I think one of the biggest things (McCarthy) does is that he tries to keep our legs fresh," wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "He cuts down on practice and meeting times are cut down. He really makes it a player-friendly and a work-friendly atmosphere to try to give us time to get treatment, rest and recovery time and things like that. He does an excellent job."
McCarthy said the team will make a decision on linebacker Brandon Chillar's availability on Sunday morning. Chillar, who sustained a groin injury during Wednesday's practice, was limited the last two days in practice and is listed as questionable for the game.
Second-year linebacker Desmond Bishop worked in Chillar's place as the starter on the weak side on Friday during the open portion of practice, but Bishop also has experience at the middle linebacker spot. If the team elected to go with Bishop in the middle, A.J. Hawk would shift back to the weak-side spot, where he started the first nine games this season.
Bishop, who has played in 11 games this season, has primarily been a special-teams contributor but played most of the second half at Minnesota on Nov. 9 when middle linebacker when Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending knee injury.
It would be Bishop's first career start, and with the uncertainty surrounding Chillar, he said he will approach the game as if he is going to start.
"I'm excited about it," Bishop said. "This is what I have been waiting a year-and-a-half for, to get an opportunity to get in a game and start and contribute to the team.
"(I'm going to) just prepare like I am going to start, like I do every week pretty much. Just get a little bit of extra film in and key in on all of my details."
Wells cleared for Sunday
Center Scott Wells, who suffered a concussion in last Sunday's game vs. Carolina, has passed the necessary medical tests and is expected to start against Houston.
Wells sustained the injury on Green Bay's touchdown drive in the second quarter, but stayed in the game, not knowing he had suffered the concussion. His shotgun snap on the first play of the next series sailed over the head of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Panthers recovered at the Green Bay 17. Wells did not return after that play.
"It was obviously much worse (than I thought)," Wells said. "The disappointing thing is that it took something that hurt the team in order for me to realize that. I wish I had obviously noticed it before."
Wells underwent a series of tests, including an "impact test", a computerized exam that checks memory and reaction time. The players take the test when healthy during the offseason and then again after they have sustained a concussion so the medical staff can make a comparison.
Wells said he did not pass the test the day after the game, but on Wednesday he did better than even his original test from the offseason. McCarthy said Wells took all of the snaps in Friday's practice.
Safety Atari Bigby (shoulder) is out for Sunday. Cornerback Pat Lee (knee), who had been listed as out, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Friday.
In addition to Chillar, defensive end Jeremy Thompson (ankle) and running back DeShawn Wynn (calf) are questionable.
Guard Allen Barbre (back), tackle Chad Clifton (knees), running backs Ryan Grant (thumb) and Brandon Jackson (quadricep), defensive end Aaron Kampman (illness), fullback John Kuhn (knee), safety Aaron Rouse (ankle), Wells and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) are probable.
Grant, who sprained his thumb and missed the second half vs. Carolina, was a full participant all week and McCarthy said he expected that Grant would have his normal workload on Sunday.
For Houston, quarterback Matt Schaub (knee) participated fully for the third straight day and is listed as probable. He is expected to make his first start since sustaining the injury Nov. 2 at Minnesota.
Starting strong safety Nick Ferguson (knee) is listed as doubtful. Backup free safety Will Demps was added to Houston's injury report on Friday with a hamstring injury and is questionable.