GREEN BAY (AP) — The Green Bay Packers don’t much care where they play, who they play or what anyone thinks of their chances to win.
Been there, done that. Any scenario you pick.
“I just think we have a certain confidence in each other,” James Jones said Tuesday. “No matter where we play, no matter who the team is, no matter how many great players they’ve got, we feel like with the team we have, we can compete with anybody. I’m not saying we’re going to go in there, we’re just going to blow people out. But we feel like we can compete with anybody, anywhere. We feel like a type of team build for that.
“Is it going to be easy? Not by any stretch,” he added. “We understand that, but we’ve got confidence in each other.”
The Packers (12-5) travel to San Francisco (11-4-1) on Saturday for an NFC divisional game. The 49ers are early three-point favorites after beating the Packers in Green Bay the first week of the season.
Not that the Packers mind.
While they don’t sit around the locker room reminiscing, the Packers have a quiet self-assurance that comes from knowing what they did two years ago. Needing to win their last two games just to get into the playoffs, the sixth-seeded Packers went on a run that carried them all the way to their 13th NFL title. They played every game on the road, and had to beat each of the NFC’s top three seeds just to reach the Super Bowl.
After that odyssey, anything seems possible.
“You try not to look in the past, but there are definitely things you can draw on from past years and that’s one of them,” offensive lineman Josh Sitton said. “It’s just something we know. We have confidence in each other, and we feel we could go win anywhere.”
Green Bay has already had to draw on that part of its DNA this year. Much like the 2010 team, the Packers have been hit hard by injuries. More than a dozen starters or projected starters have missed one game or more, including Charles Woodson (nine games), Greg Jennings (eight), Clay Matthews (four) and Jordy Nelson (four). The offensive line is on its fifth combination, and one of the starters, Don Barclay, was an undrafted rookie free agent.
Yet, just as they did in 2010, the Packers have persevered. After beginning the season 2-3, they’ve won nine of 11. Green Bay is now the healthiest it’s been all season, and it’s a much deeper team than it was at the start of the year because those youngsters who were shoved into bigger roles are now savvy veterans.
“That was a team (in 2010) that had its own set of adversity and things we had to get through together and learn together, learn how to win, learn how to win big games. We kind of went into the playoffs almost playing with house money, if you will, because we had to win our last two and nobody expected us to do a whole lot as a sixth seed,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “This year, we had to learn again how to win, how to grow as a team, how to deal with adversity. We had to have some young guys step up and play some roles at the beginning of the season that you wouldn’t have expected. We lost some veterans over the course of the season to injury, but have gotten some of those guys back.
“We’re in this position, we’re excited about it, we have a tough test in front of us. But anything can happen.”
And if people want to overlook the Packers, they’re OK with that.
Few folks outside of Wisconsin figured the Packers would make the playoffs after that 2-3 start, let alone win the NFC North. Yet the Packers dismantled the then-unbeaten Texans in Houston to start a five-game winning streak. After a dismal performance against the New York Giants, the Packers ripped off four more victories. And after blowing the No. 2 seed with a loss to Minnesota in the regular-season finale, the Packers overwhelmed the Vikings in last weekend’s wild-card rematch.
“Our players like that. I think they respond better when they’re disrespected,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m sure we’ll get some of that this week, too, because we weren’t successful in the first week (against the 49ers).”
Whatever. Just tell the Packers who they’re playing and where, and they’ll take care of the rest.
“We just have total confidence in this team, period,” Tramon Williams said. “We’re just ready to go and take this next step, and hopefully we can get to where we want to go.”
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