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Team's Focus Remains Internal


As heartbreaking as the last-play loss in Pittsburgh was last Sunday, the one thing the Green Bay Packers didn't lose was control of their playoff destiny.

That certainly beats the alternative, and it's a reality that is making it easier to move past the frustrations from the previous game, one the Packers know should have been their 10th win.

"We just need to win, period," receiver Greg Jennings said. "That's been our goal all year. We win and everything takes care of itself. We definitely just have to control what we can control and not worry about anything other than that."

The playoff scenarios as they pertain to the Packers are actually pretty simple.

--If the Packers (9-5) win their final two games, this Sunday at home against Seattle and then at Arizona on Jan. 3, they will earn an NFC Wild Card berth at 11-5.

--If the Packers split their remaining two games and finish 10-6, they will need either the Dallas Cowboys (9-5) or New York Giants (8-6) to drop one of their final two games in order to secure a Wild Card spot.

That's really the gist of it. But it's the first of those scenarios, the one that doesn't involve anyone but themselves, that the Packers are concentrating on the most.

"I just know that if we win two, we're in," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We've got to win two."

It looked like it would be easier than that less than a week ago, when it appeared 10 wins would make a playoff berth almost automatic.

But then Dallas went to New Orleans and stunned the previously unbeaten Saints last Saturday night with a near-dominant performance that kept the Cowboys not only solidly within the Wild Card hunt but also in the chase for the NFC East division title behind Philadelphia (10-4), the team Dallas plays in Week 17.

So 10 wins is no longer the magic number, just the next number. Which still makes it the most important number for now.

"We let one slip away this weekend," guard Daryn Colledge said. "We could have had 10 wins, which would have helped us out a lot. We need to get 10 wins and we need to beat up Seattle, so I think that's what everybody is focused on."

And focused they plan to remain. Seattle's 5-9 record doesn't look imposing, but no one is taking the Seahawks for granted, even after an ugly 24-7 home loss to the now 2-12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Sunday.

The Packers know all about lesser teams rising up on occasion, having been the only other team to lose to Tampa Bay this season. But that's the NFL. Playoff contenders Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Denver all have lost this season to the Oakland Raiders, who like Seattle are 5-9.

In some ways, if the Raiders weren't capable of beating good teams, they might not have beaten anybody this year. That's paradoxical on its face, but it underscores the unpredictable nature of the game. Nothing is a given.

"That's never the case in the NFL," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "Seattle, I don't think they have a good record as we speak, but it's a good team. They just haven't been in tune this year I guess you could say. You never know when a team can get started, and we don't want it to be this week against us."

Aside from Tampa Bay, the Packers need only look back to Sunday for another example. Pittsburgh had lost five games in a row, including the most recent one to the lowly Cleveland Browns, before Ben Roethlisberger threw for a franchise-record 503 yards to beat Green Bay.

{sportsad300}Head Coach Mike McCarthy insisted on Wednesday there's no hangover from that game, and the team's Christmas week schedule has helped with that. Working ahead so everyone can take Christmas Day off, players got their first look at Seattle on Monday when that normally wouldn't happen until Wednesday. The week has been fast-paced, with a lot of work crammed into Wednesday and Thursday before finishing up on Saturday.

But there's a fine line between moving on and putting the disappointment in the past, a line that can be different depending on the player. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins is one who isn't simply forgetting about the frustration and tough loss, particularly because he just missed a potential sack of Roethlisberger on the second-to-last play of Sunday's game that would have run out the clock and given the Packers the victory.

"You need that anger sometimes when you're coming off of a loss, that motivation," Jenkins said. "That's got to stay with you. As far as studying and thinking about the players or the team, we have to move on to the next team. But you're still going to feel like you're coming off a loss and you need to get a win.

"If that works to help motivate you, then it's a good thing. If it doesn't, if it distracts you, then you don't need to be thinking of it. I know I'll use it personally as motivation, things that I didn't do so good or could have done better in the game. Those are things I'm going to work on and try to carry over to this week, and try to come away with a win."

Some help in the form of others losing would be nice, of course, but the Packers aren't concerned with that scenario. Just their own.

"It's not for me to study," Jennings said. "If we win, we're good. So that's all I need to study and worry about, what we can do within this locker room."

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