Nobody's perfect, including Packers

The Packers’ chances of ending the regular season 16-0 look pretty good as three of their final...

The Packers’ chances of ending the regular season 16-0 look pretty good as three of their final four games are at home. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:28 PM ET

The Green Bay Packers continue their march towards an undefeated season when they play host to the Oakland Raiders Sunday afternoon.

It will be the Packers’ 13th game of the season but few expect the Pack to trip up on that unlucky number as they close in on locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Packers’ chances of ending the regular season 16-0 look pretty good as three of their final four games are at home.

On paper the only game that could prove problematic is the finale, Jan. 1, against the Lions as Detroit may need that one to secure a wild-card spot.

The week before they play the Bears and that usually is a tussle. But without quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, the Bears are a toothless bunch.

In Green Bay, though, and Packer nation, the worry beads are out, that they are vulnerable, due to the fact that the Packers’ defence is a shadow of its former self.

Last year the Packers had to beat the Bears in their final game to make the playoffs and then were forced to win out on the road. They overcame that liability and did so with a truck load of players on the injury list.

The Pack is relatively healthy at this point but the defence is decidedly sickly in their performance as it ranks 31st overall.

Last week in their thrilling 38-35 victory over the Giants, the boys in blue rolled up 447 yards of offence and that is how it has gone for a high number of their games in 2011.

They are winning by the magic season being provided by Aaron Rodgers. He has simply been unbelievable as his 37 TD passes against five interceptions would suggest.

The problem is that in the playoffs, what happens if Rodgers is a bit off? The defence hasn’t won a game this season and there’s not much to suggest that it could do so in the post-season.

On the plus side, the Packers are second in the league in takeaways and lead the loop with 23 interceptions.

But they have been mediocre at getting to the quarterback — just 26 sacks (18th) — and have been guilty of being susceptible to the big play.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy, though, believes that the best is yet to come for his defensive unit, that they will heat up as the temperature chills inside Lambeau Field.

“We’re going to play championship defence down the stretch,” he claimed.

On that we’ll wait and see. In the interim, the cheeseheads will cheer Rodgers on and pray that the magic continues.

TRASH TALKIN’

The war of words, the battle of blather, the trash talkin’ has started to heat up between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

With the division championship at stake — the Cowboys hold a one-game lead — the Giants travel to Dallas for Sunday’s encounter, a must win for the Giants who need to run the table over their final four regular season games in order to snatch the NFC East title from the Cowboys’ grasp.

Perhaps with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware opined the other day that Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, who has expressed a hatred of Dallas in the past, is just a Cowboys wannabe at heart.

“He says that because maybe he wants to play here,” Ware told reporters. “Everybody wants to play for the Cowboys. If I wasn’t playing for the Cowboys I would call it that, too, because I want to play for them.”

The Giants and Cowboys have one of the more intense rivalries in the game and the fact that New York has won their past two trips to Dallas just revs up the stakes for Sunday’s clash.

“I hate anytime we play them,” Ware said. “It’s just not the Giants, because guess what, the team is trying to come in here and take your manhood. So it don’t matter who you’re playing.”

Take your manhood? Now, that’s got to hurt.

Ware added that it’s going to be a tong war.

“It’s sort of like a battle, gladiator against gladiator, who wants it the most,” he said. “It’s not just the Giants, so there is a lot at stake. You’re playing for first place, and you’ve got to get out there and play hard.”

QUICK HITS

Denver Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller has been practising this week with a protective cast covering his injured right thumb and expects to be back in action on Sunday for their game against the Bears. “I definitely feel confident enough to go play,” he said. Miller, who leads NFL rookies with 10.5 sacks, tore the ligaments in his thumb Nov. 27 against the Chargers and missed last week’s game against Minnesota ... Giants centre David Baas will likely miss Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys due to a neck injury that is causing “migraine-like” headaches. The problem is so severe that it could potentially end his season ... File this under ... and in other news, General Franco is dead. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Thursday in television interviews that he doesn’t expect quarterback Peyton Manning to play this season. Really? Manning has been out all season after a series a neck surgeries and a return to play this season was never in the cards. Now it’s semi-official as Irsay said he doesn’t “envision Peyton playing this season.” ... Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice on Thursday and is expected to play Sunday for the first time in three weeks. However, rookie quarterback Christian Ponder missed his second consecutive practice with a hip pointer and is doubtful. If Ponder can’t play he’ll be replaced by Joe Webb.

LIONS’ ZERO-TOLERANCE PROGRAM

The Detroit Lions are 7-5 and on the playoff ropes due to their losing ways of late — they have lost three of their past four. One of the main reasons why they have gone south after a 5-0 start is their undisciplined play that has seen them take a ton of stupid and foolish penalties.

Receiver Nate Burleson says that’s going to stop.

“A zero-tolerance policy has been instilled (by coach Jim Schwartz), and we gotta abide by that,” Burleson said. “I don’t think you’ll see too many more bonehead mistakes.”

He said part of the Lions’ problem in that area is that they are an aggressive team and the officials are clamping down on them for their style of play.

“But the things we’re doing now, we did early in the season, if you look at the film,” Burleson said. “People were calling us the new bad boys, but the microscope wasn’t as big. Now, not only do the refs know we like to play through the whistle, that we don’t take no crap, but other teams are probably saying, ‘Hey, if you pick at these guys, they’ll end up doing something stupid.’”

In the end, stupid may cost them a playoff berth.


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