Packers Aren't Looking Ahead -- Here's Why

It’s been all over in the media this week, how Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers is a classic "trap" game. But as the Packers aim for there ninth win, here are nine reasons they shouldn’t, and won’t, overlook their Week 11 opponent. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Panthers Game Center Notebook: Tauscher Probable; Injury List Shortens Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 16


It's been all over in the media this week, how this Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers is a classic "trap" game.

The Packers have won four straight since their only loss this season and are coming off their most complete, dominant performance of 2007 to improve to 8-1. The Panthers have lost three straight to fall to 4-5 and have all sorts of injury problems at quarterback.

The Packers have a huge two-game road trip looming, beginning with a Thanksgiving visit to Detroit - the second-place team in the NFC North - followed by another Thursday tilt in Dallas - with whom the Packers are tied for the best record in the NFC.

So the circumstances clearly exist for the Packers to get caught looking ahead and not focusing on the team they have to face this Sunday at Lambeau Field.

But Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the players are determined to not let that happen. They've been saying so all week, and their very awareness of the pitfalls makes a letdown all the less likely.

So to reinforce the players' comments this week regarding their focus on the task at hand, here's a list of thoughts to ponder. As the Packers aim for there ninth win, call it the nine reasons they shouldn't, and won't, overlook their Week 11 opponent.

1. Carolina's road record:The Panthers have struggled in Charlotte, going 0-4, but they're 4-1 on the road this year, the best road mark in the NFC behind Dallas (5-0) and Green Bay (4-0), and 14-6 on the road over the last three seasons. One of their road wins this season was a 16-13 nailbiter in the New Orleans Superdome, just before the Saints ripped off four straight victories.

2. Steve Smith:The diminutive (5-foot-9) but dynamite playmaker has 45 receptions for 590 yards and six touchdowns this season catching passes from a carousel of quarterbacks. He's questionable on the injury report this week with a sore shin, but if he's able to play and get into any kind of rhythm, he can be downright scary. And don't think a little chilly weather will affect the Southern California native. Back in January of 2006, he torched the Chicago Bears for 218 yards on 12 receptions, including touchdowns of 58 and 39 yards, in an NFC playoff upset at Soldier Field.

3. Too close for comfort:Last Sunday's 34-0 blanking of division rival Minnesota was impressive, but that type of victory has been the exception rather than the rule for the Packers this season. The wins over the Eagles, Chargers, Vikings (the first time), Redskins, Broncos and Chiefs all came down to the final two minutes, and every single one could have gone the other way. The Packers have shown when they don't play their best football, victories are far from a sure thing.

4. Crazy like a Fox:Carolina head coach John Fox knows McCarthy as well if not better than any opponent the Packers will face this season. A defensive coach by trade, Fox went head-to-head with McCarthy seven times while McCarthy was the offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints (2000-04) - once as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants in 2001 and six times as head coach of the Panthers in twice-yearly NFC South matchups from 2002 to 2004. Fox was 5-2 in those seven matchups.

{sportsad300}5. Must keep pace:If the race in the NFC ultimately whittles down to two teams, the Packers and Cowboys, the showdown in two weeks won't mean much if the Packers can't keep pace. The Nov. 29 game in Dallas will be the Cowboys' third straight at home, so the schedule sets up nicely for them. The Cowboys' two home games prior to Green Bay's visit are against NFC East rival Washington and on Thanksgiving against the 1-8 New York Jets.

As far as the NFC North goes, the Packers can guarantee themselves at least at two-game advantage heading into the Thanksgiving showdown in Detroit by winning on Sunday. A loss to the Panthers coupled with a Lions win over the Giants, and suddenly Detroit could tie Green Bay (and technically take over first based on the head-to-head tiebreaker) by beating the Packers on Turkey Day.

6. Julius Peppers:The Panthers' star defensive end has gone to the Pro Bowl each of the last three years, compiling 34 1/2 sacks and eight forced fumbles in that time. This year, he has just 1 1/2 sacks through nine games, and he's been answering questions all week about why he isn't playing as well and whether or not he's fully healthy. Sometimes that's all the motivation a previously dominant player needs to return to form.

7. Hanging with the big boys:The final score was 31-7, but the Panthers were must closer than that to throwing a scare into the then-unbeaten Indianapolis Colts three weeks ago. Carolina started that game with an 18-play drive that took 11 minutes, 1 second off the clock, scoring a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. The Panthers then held the Colts to a three-and-out on their first possession, but a muffed punt and an interception in the end zone later in the first half prevented them from extending the lead. Then, down 10-7 at the half, Carolina lost quarterback Vinny Testaverde to an Achilles injury, and a banged-up David Carr was forced to finish. The game got out of hand late, but Carolina won't be intimidated coming in to face the once-beaten Packers.

8. Wounded and dangerous:The Panthers have lost three straight and have some injury issues, but a wounded team can be a dangerous one, just like the Chicago Bears were back in Week 5, coming into Lambeau and rallying from a 17-7 halftime deficit to beat the Packers, 27-20.

9. Still in the hunt:Despite their 4-5 record, the Panthers are just one game behind Tampa Bay for first place in the NFC South and have plenty to play for. Only two games separate all four teams in that division, so it's wide open with seven games to play, and the division champ gets a playoff berth and a home postseason game, no matter what the records of the wild card teams.

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