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Green Bay Packers face greatest challenge of the season against red-hot Patriots

10:29 PM, Dec. 15, 2010  |  Comments
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 15
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 15: The Insiders discuss the Packers offensive line and facing the New England Patriots with or without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The gang imitates their own 'Spygate' scandal to get ahead of their competition.
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No one is giving the Green Bay Packers a chance this week.

They are coming off their worst loss of the season, the status of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers is uncertain, and they are facing the best team, best head coach and best quarterback in the National Football League.

No wonder the experts have already chalked up a loss for the Packers in their Sunday night matchup against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, where quarterback Tom Brady hasn't lost in an NFL record 26 straight home games.

The Packers' playoff hopes have already started to fade, so another defeat could severely cripple their post-season chances. The last team the Packers need to see on their schedule is the red-hot Patriots, who own a five-game winning streak, boast the highest-scoring offense in the league and won their last two games against division leaders by a combined score of 81-10.

The Patriots aren't just beating their opponents. They are chewing them up, spitting them out and stomping on them for good measure.

Conventional wisdom suggests the Packers will not only have trouble winning, but staying competitive.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn't listening to the pundits this week, and you can be sure his players won't either.

"We're nobody's underdog," said McCarthy. "We have all the confidence in our abilities. We've had challenges throughout the season. We've stepped up to those challenges, and we feel the same way going into this game."

But this will be the greatest challenge of them all. The Patriots haven't lost a home game against an NFC opponent in eight years. The Patriots under coach Bill Belichick are an NFL-best 39-9 in December and January regular-season games over the past decade, and an even more impressive 21-3 at home in the final month.

Translation: The Patriots are virtually unbeatable at home in December, meaning the Packers face a nearly impossible task.

But from McCarthy's tone, you can be sure the Packers won't be looking for sympathy and will be highly motivated.

After the Packers offense was embarrassed in a 7-3 loss to the Detroit Lions last week, there will be no shortage of desire to make amends.

"Obviously any time you have a performance like that you want to prove yourself the next week," said guard Josh Sitton.

Tackle Bryan Bulaga said he watched the film of the Lions game seven times this week. It was a painful sight, but Bulaga said he will carry a chip on his shoulder into the Patriots game because of it.

"We can be hard on ourselves about it," said Bulaga. "Obviously I think everyone's pretty upset about it. I don't think you talk to one of these offensive linemen that aren't upset about it.

"I think games like that are the biggest learning tools."

After suffering their worst loss last season against an 0-7 Tampa Bay team, the Packers responded by dominating the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys the following week.

Could a similar bounce-back effort be in store?

The Patriots will make that difficult, and it gets worse with the potential loss of Rodgers.

"It's a prime time game, Sunday night football, playing against probably the hottest team in football right now," said nose tackle B.J. Raji.

"That's a great matchup. It's going to be an intense physical game and hopefully we'll bring the most pop."

Against all odds and with nearly everyone counting them out, the Packers plan to show up and not just play, but try to win.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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