Notebook: Packers Recapture Home-Field Edge


One of the themes of Head Coach Mike McCarthy's first training camp in the summer of 2006 was for the Green Bay Packers to get back their decided home-field advantage at Lambeau Field.

That wasn't exactly accomplished, as the Packers began 2006 with three straight home losses, and went 1-5 at Lambeau through the first week of December.

But while the four-game winning streak to conclude 2006 served as a springboard into 2007, the two home wins late last season over Detroit and Minnesota also got some of those positive Lambeau vibes back.

The Packers went 7-1 at home in the regular season this year and have won nine of their last 10 home games dating back to last season's final month. That's the team's best single-season home mark since sweeping the home schedule in 2002.

But unlike then, when the season ended with the team's first postseason loss ever at Lambeau (to Atlanta), the Packers plan to keep the home field working in their favor in their first playoff game in three seasons.

"The Lambeau advantage is awesome," defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said. "We plan on utilizing it to the max. We assume it's going to be very hyped at Lambeau Field."

That it will be, especially considering the Packers haven't hosted a Divisional round playoff game since the 1997 season. Since then, the only home playoff games have been in the Wild Card round, and the Packers have gone 2-2, losing to Minnesota three years ago in their last postseason appearance.

The veterans are certainly looking forward to the chance to erase that postseason taste from their mouths.

"We're playing at home, what more can you ask?" tight end Bubba Franks said. "Playing at home, Lambeau Field, we've got the 'G Force' behind us, it's time to go. I'm tired of practicing, it's time to go."

Interestingly, the opponent on Saturday has enjoyed one of the best home-field advantages in the league since Qwest Field was built in Seattle. Over the last five seasons, the Seahawks are 33-7 at home in the regular season, and 4-1 at home in the playoffs, including last week's 35-14 Wild Card win over Washington.

Seattle is no playoff pushover on the road, either. Though the Seahawks are 0-2 in road playoff games in that same span, both losses came in overtime, at Green Bay in the 2003 Wild Card game, and last year at Chicago in the Divisional round.

"We need to make it our advantage," linebacker A.J. Hawk said of playing at home. "We need to use it to our advantage, and a team like Seattle, if you watched their last game, they used their home-field advantage for them. You need to get on a team early and don't let up."

A fast start would certainly get the home crowd behind Green Bay and perhaps make things more difficult for Seattle. But as happy as McCarthy is the team re-established its Lambeau advantage in 2007, he doesn't want the players thinking it will just take care of itself.

"We're going to play football in one of the best sports venues in all of sports," McCarthy said. "That's a blessing but we need to play football the way we're capable of playing regardless of where we play it."

Getting any edge

Both quarterback Brett Favre and receiver Koren Robinson noted they expect Seattle coach Mike Holmgren to use the return to Green Bay as a way to motivate his team this week.

Favre said when Holmgren coached the Packers, he would often use a return trip to San Francisco, where he served as offensive coordinator before becoming Green Bay's head coach, as a motivator for the players, even if he didn't raise the issue publicly.

"There was one of these win-one-for-the-Gipper type of (speeches) from our standpoint," Favre said. "I think he's a great motivator. I think he will use coming back, even though it's happened a lot of times, I think he will use it to get those guys motivated. Some of those guys don't even remember Holmgren coached here, but by the end of the week they will be excited about it."

Holmgren has brought the Seahawks to Lambeau Field four times, beginning in 1999 and including the 2003 Wild Card game. The Packers are 3-1 against him here, losing the 1999 Monday night contest and winning three straight, though one of those was at the end of the 2005 season when Seattle had the NFC's No. 1 seed wrapped up and rested several key players for the playoffs.

"I know coach Holmgren and he's going to try to get every edge that he can, definitely mentally," Robinson said. "I feel like that's the type of coach he is. I love Coach Holmgren to death. He's a great coach, and I know he's going to have them ready."

Injury update

The receiving corps is a bit banged up at mid-week, but McCarthy isn't concerned that anyone will be missing-in-action come gametime.

{sportsad300}Receivers Greg Jennings (groin), James Jones (hamstring) and Koren Robinson (knee) were all listed as limited in practice on the first injury report of the week, but all three are expected to play.

McCarthy said Jennings and Jones just felt some tightness in their legs three-fourths of the way through practice on Wednesday, so he pulled them out as a precaution.

Cornerback Charles Woodson continues to battle his toe injury, and he's also now dealing with his knee, which McCarthy said he "bumped on the turf" in Tuesday's practice. Woodson did not practice at all on Wednesday, a full-pads workout, but he has no doubts Woodson will be available.

"Just had some swelling, he'll be fine," McCarthy said. "We know Charles will be ready to go."

Cornerback Will Blackmon remains limited with his foot injury, and has essentially not practiced the past two days. McCarthy indicated if he's healthy enough come the weekend, Blackmon might still return punts, but the missed practice time could limit how much he'll be involved on defense.

Right guard Jason Spitz is listed on the injury report with his quadriceps injury, but he was a full participant in practice and declared himself 100 percent in the locker room following the workout.

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