Skip to main content

Packers hope first-round bye sets the table for special postseason

Green Bay’s locker room grateful for an extra week of recovery

RB Aaron Jones
RB Aaron Jones

GREEN BAY – For all of Aaron Jones' individual success over the years, winning hasn't always come naturally for the Packers' third-year running back.

In four years at the University of Texas-El Paso, Jones experienced only one winning season (a 7-6 campaign that ended with a loss in the New Mexico Bowl during his sophomore season). His first two years in the NFL? Thirteen combined wins.

So maybe that's what has made this year's run extra sweet for Jones, whose 1,558 total yards and 19 touchdowns helped propel Green Bay to a 13-3 record and its first NFC North title in three years.

The Packers now hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, giving them a first-round bye for the first time in five years and guaranteeing the first game Green Bay plays will take place at Lambeau Field on Jan. 12.

That matchup will come after an extra week of rest, of course.

"You can't beat that," said Jones after Sunday's 23-20 win over Detroit. "I feel like first you have to come to Lambeau, so that's an advantage for us. And one less game you have to play in the playoffs is also an advantage, I feel like. So this win right here was big. We felt like it was a playoff game in this locker room. We have to attack every game like that."

It's a special time for the entire locker room, from the 2017 and 2018 draft classes that have yet to play postseason football to the seven veterans who remain from the last Packers team to earn a first-round bye back in 2014.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur gave players off on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The team will reconvene for practice on Thursday and Friday before learning whichever highest advancing seed they'll face from this weekend's NFC Wild Card playoffs.

Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick was a rookie on Green Bay's practice squad when the 2016 team ran the table from a 4-6 midseason record to the NFC Championship Game. As remarkable as that was, he'll gladly take the extra week of rest and recovery for this year's stretch run.

"It's huge. It'll be my first-ever bye, postseason," Patrick said. "I think it says a lot about this team and a willingness to come together to win. That's what in playoff games you need. It'll be nice to have a week off, get even closer as a team, rest up, lick the wounds and come back and be ready to go with whomever we have to face."

Count Jamaal Williams among 30 players on the active roster excited for his first shot at the NFL postseason. The third-year running back sat out Sunday's win over the Lions with a shoulder injury, but he doesn't anticipate it causing him to miss any additional time in the playoffs.

There was an outside possibility Green Bay could have claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC had San Francisco lost to Seattle on Sunday night, but the 49ers held the Seahawks off in somewhat controversial fashion for a 26-21 win.

Williams only saw highlights of the game and isn't worried about it. A No. 2 seed means at least one more home game, which also could mean frigid temperatures whenever New Orleans, Philadelphia or Seattle comes to town in less than two weeks.

"Of course, we want it as cold as it can get, I want it negative-50," said Williams, smiling. "We just know that it starts here and whoever has to come in here has to come through Lambeau first. We just know that."

The Packers' rebound from a six-win 2018 to 13 victories this year marks the largest one-year turnaround in franchise history, topping the 1929 team that won 12 games to double its win total from the previous year.

That 13th victory, Green Bay's most in a season since 2011, didn't come easy. The Packers had to battle back from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat the Lions. Although the Packers feel their best game is still out there, their response to adversity has defined this team since April.

And Jones is enjoying every minute of the ride.

"We don't blink. We stay together. We stay as a team," Jones said. "We don't let anything stop us, and we just come in here at halftime refocused, and we know we've got to do it. No matter how you win, you get it done. A 'W' is a 'W.'"

Related Content