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Packers win away from picture clearing


It's almost time to start looking at playoff scenarios.

The Packers are just one away from double digits in the win column, the type of number that gives teams an unofficial invitation to the postseason party.

The 9-0 Packers won't clinch anything by winning their next game Sunday against Tampa Bay, but they could safely start looking at how their division and the rest of the conference are shaping up for January.

"History will tell you when you get to double-digit wins, it gives you a visual of your first goal, and the first goal is to win the division," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "When you do get to 10, 11 wins, things start to clear up a little bit."

Green Bay currently has a three-game lead in the NFC North over Detroit and Chicago, both 6-3, with seven games to play. The Packers have two games remaining with the Lions and one with the Bears, so the team's first division title since 2007 is far from assured.

Performances like the one the Packers put together on Monday night make it difficult to see anyone in the division catching them, though. The 45-7 beating administered to the Vikings was as thorough as it was uplifting, based on the previously struggling defense's solid outing.

The Packers attacked the Vikings and rookie quarterback Christian Ponder from all angles, blitzing more than they have all season, particularly with their defensive backs, led by cornerback Charles Woodson. It resulted in three sacks and six quarterback hits on Ponder, whose 52.3 passer rating was the lowest by a Green Bay opponent this year.

"Definitely, pressure was a big part of the game plan going in, and it was working, so why stop?" McCarthy said. "I felt our defense really played downhill against the Vikings, and pressure was a big part of it."

The matchup against a rookie quarterback and the fact that the Packers were playing at home and led 14-0 just 10 minutes into the game were factors as well.

Meanwhile, the offense continued on its record-setting scoring pace, though McCarthy emphasized he won't ignore the leaks in pass protection that led to quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting sacked three times, with a fourth sack nullified by a defensive penalty. Rodgers also scrambled out of trouble a handful of other times, and the running backs combined for three negative runs in 21 attempts.

"You can't just gloss over any play or any situation in the game based on the score," said McCarthy, who hadn't watched the game film himself because he was focusing on the game plan for the Buccaneers. The assistant coaches have viewed and graded the film and will discuss it with the players on Wednesday.

"You have to correct the mistakes. If you don't, you're never going to learn."

Regarding the offensive line, McCarthy noted that veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, who has been out since injuring his hamstring in Week 5 at Atlanta, might return for the Dec. 4 game against the New York Giants. He called that "realistic" if Clifton stays on schedule with his recovery.

No other injury issues were discussed on Tuesday, a rare but comforting development as the Packers are in the middle of playing three games in 11 days. They'll return to the practice field for a somewhat abbreviated workout on Wednesday, a likely prelude to more shortened practices next week heading into the Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

"It's important for us to keep our players on schedule this week because everybody knows we're coming off a Sunday game onto a Thursday, and that will be even more abbreviated," McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Nov. 15

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