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'Packer football weather' is on its way

QB Aaron Rodgers looks forward to a cold Monday nighter

QB Aaron Rodgers
QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The forecast calls for temperatures Monday night to hover in the teens, and even at 39 years old, Aaron Rodgers likes hearing that.

"I do," the Packers quarterback said after Thursday's practice. "I love when the weather turns, and we get to have some Packer football weather."

It's always interesting to see how teams from warmer climates, like southern California's Rams coming in Monday night, will respond to the cold. Home playoff defeats the past couple years notwithstanding, chilly late-season games have been good to the Packers.

Under Matt LaFleur, the Packers are 12-2 in December-January outdoor games in the upper Midwest. The only losses have been those postseason disappointments against the Buccaneers and 49ers the last two seasons.

Mind over matter is the word from the players and coaches as far as how to handle it. The Packers have the advantage of practicing in it, but it still comes down to focusing in when the time comes.

"Mentally, you gotta get your mind right," said new outside linebacker Justin Hollins, who played in the cold for the Rams against the Packers two years ago.

Added LaFleur: "It's a lot about mindset and getting your mind right to go play in it."

Part of the mentality for Rodgers, who says it doesn't feel any colder as he gets older, is embracing the elements as another challenge to conquer.

"I don't know if you ever like it a lot," he said. "I just think you get pretty good at dealing with it. I enjoy it. There's a physicality to it, a mental toughness that kind of comes into a play that I think as a competitor you enjoy."

That advantage can take further hold when the home team plays with a lead, an elusive concept for the Packers this season. Green Bay's last two victories have required multi-score comebacks in the fourth quarter, and the last time the Packers had a multi-score lead on an opponent was back in Week 7.

With the Packers' backs against the wall, needing to win their final four games to have a chance at a playoff spot, it's worth remembering that back in the "run the table" finish to 2016, Green Bay started every one of the last six regular-season games with a 7-0 lead.

They trailed at any juncture only twice over those final six games, by three and seven points, and for no longer than a possession or two. Jumping on top regularly can go a long way toward fueling a winning streak this time of year.

"That's how we're going to have to get this thing going," Rodgers said.

"We've been playing from behind for so much of this season.

"We like to defer (when winning the coin toss). If we can get a stop and a score, that changes the dynamic of the game. When you get the ball back with a chance to go up two scores, again, that changes the whole outlook on the game. I think there's a palpable energy shift that happens when you go up by two scores, especially at home, in cold weather, against an opponent that's eliminated from the playoffs."

Coming off the bye week, the offense could be more equipped than it's been all season to do that, now that rookie receiver Christian Watson has emerged as a dynamic threat, fellow rookie receiver Romeo Doubs is expected back from his ankle injury, and veteran receiver Allen Lazard has gotten time to heal a banged-up body.

The backfield duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon also appears at full health, and the No. 1 offensive line is intact except for rookie Zach Tom filling in at left tackle for David Bakhtiari, who is recovering from an appendectomy.

Is the offense, which has scored 28 or more points in three of its last four games, ready to put it all together?

"If we aren't, we're going to be thinking about the offseason pretty quickly," Rodgers said. "We've got to score points. We need to be in the 30s moving forward. Regardless of what our defense does, we score 30 points, we should win those games. Whatever it takes for us on offense.

"If we can get ahead of teams at home – we have three out of four at home – we can put some things together, I think."

Even if the Packers can put together their first winning streak since the opening quarter of the season, they'll still need help in the playoff chase.

But you can't win 'em all unless you win the first one, which will be the first of three in the cold down the stretch.

"We're playing meaningful football in December," Rodgers said. "That's important and that should be the focus. Look, the fact is, there's stuff that's out of our control. What we can control is we've got to win out.

"We control our focus and our approach and be a pro about it. If we do that, you never know what could happen. Get on a little run here and make things interesting."