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Packers will 'go attack' potential playoff spot with 'whatever it takes'

Blocking out distractions has team in proper mindset

QB Jordan Love, Head Coach Matt LaFleur
QB Jordan Love, Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – No game has meant more to the Green Bay Packers this season than this one.

But for all that's riding on this win-and-in contest, the week hasn't been as much about the high-pressure, high-stakes environment that Lambeau Field will become Sunday against the Bears.

It's been more about blocking out all the potential distractions that won't, and can't, mean anything to the Packers once the ball kicks off.

There's Matt LaFleur's perfect 9-0 record against Chicago in his five seasons as head coach. To no one's surprise, he hasn't brought it up, nor has anyone in the locker room.

There's the Packers' former quarterback and self-proclaimed "owner" of the longstanding rival to the south providing bulletin board material to the opponent. Again, not a peep. Because nobody here cares. Because it doesn't matter.

Most importantly, there's the situational déjà vu of the Packers hosting an NFC North foe in Week 18 with a wild-card berth on the line, as they did last year when they came out on the wrong end of a tough loss to the Lions.

Roughly 40% of the Packers' current roster wasn't around for that game. But the other 60% was, and while they remember it, and the profound disappointment that came with the result, there's no reason to dwell on it.

"We can't worry about what happened before," said linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who's headed back to the lineup after resting a neck injury for the past two weeks. "We just have to worry about Sunday."

That's been LaFleur's message from the moment the Packers departed the U.S. Bank Stadium locker room in Minneapolis a week ago after a resounding victory over the Vikings put them in this spot.

Yes, the circumstances are the same, even down to a hot opponent looking to not only spoil the Packers' playoff bid but also send a message it'll be a team to contend with in 2024. The Lions used their strong finish last season and victory in the finale at Lambeau to springboard themselves to the NFC North title this season. The Bears are now looking to do exactly the same thing.

But this isn't the same Packers team. Not just personnel-wise in many areas, but psyche-wise as well, according to the head coach.

"There's a different vibe around here, a different mindset," LaFleur said. "We've got to go attack. That's the bottom line. We've got to go attack, we've got to go and play like we have been the last few weeks just with the mentality, whatever it takes."

In other words, this game has nothing to do with last year. It has everything to do with this year, this team, and this chance.

Quarterback Jordan Love, the most prominent of several leaders in the Packers' locker room, answered the questions about last year thrown at him but made this perfectly clear:

"I don't even think we need to use that," he said. "I think this team is motivated enough, just the situation we have, to get into the playoffs, and how bad we want that.

"Just with the season we've had, the bumps along the road, to put ourselves in position, I think everybody is very motivated."

That's the vibe permeating this team. Several of Love's offensive weapons, from receivers Christian Watson and Dontayvion Wicks to tight end Luke Musgrave, appear to be getting healthy at the right time, ready to add to what the Packers' surging offense has been building toward in recent games.

They haven't battled their way back for just one game. Just like the team as a whole, they plan to make all the trials and tribulations of their season worth it.

"We've said it for the past couple weeks now," Watson said. "Everything's still in front of us."

But back to Love. It's the first of what could be many do-or-die type games for him in his career. Well, last week was probably the first, but the longer a team stays alive, the higher the stakes rise.

Love is as aware of that as anybody as he prepares for a game far bigger than any his predecessor played in his first season as the starter 15 years ago. So what's his mindset? Bring it on. Embrace it.

"That's what you play for, right?" he said. "You play for these moments, these opportunities to play in the competitive games. You want to be playing in these games to have a chance to go to the playoffs.

"That's exactly where we're at and I think everybody's excited for it. It's going to be fun."

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