Skidding Packers face steep climb to reach playoffs

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Another close loss on the road left the Green Bay Packers in a huge hole when it comes to their flickering postseason hopes.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers laid out the grim scenario left behind after a 24-1 loss in Minnesota.

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“We’re going to need some help from some teams and then we’ve got to take care of our own business, you know?” he said. “We’re going to have to find a way to win a game on the road. We’re 0-6 on the road. We’ve got to beat Arizona, and then come back and beat Atlanta, then go to Chicago — a place we’ve won a number of times — beat them, go to New York around Christmas (and) beat them, and then come home against Detroit (and) beat them. Get a little help.”

Green Bay limped home from its fourth defeat in five games with a 4-6-1 record. The Packers are in 10th place in the NFC playoff race. Washington (6-5) leads the chase for the final postseason berth. Seattle and Carolina also are 6-5 and Philadelphia is 5-6. It all adds up to long odds for the Packers, who haven’t won back-to-back games all season.

Green Bay does have the easiest remaining schedule, which starts with home games against Arizona (2-9) and Atlanta (4-7).

“I think our team has done a really good job keeping their eye on the target,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “They’re playing hard. They’re giving us everything they’ve got. As their coaching staff, we’re just going to keep giving them everything we’ve got. We need to coach better and we need to play better.”

Green Bay’s offense has been startlingly bad on third downs. The Packers converted only 2 of 10 opportunities against the Vikings. For the season, they’re 24th in the league with a conversion rate of 37 percent. Over the previous 10 seasons, the Packers were fifth with a conversion rate of 43.4 percent.

“If our third down improves, we’re clearly a touchdown or so better per game,” McCarthy said.

That touchdown per game would make a huge difference for a team that has lost games at the Rams, Seahawks and Vikings over the past month by a combined 12 points.

Beyond the third-down woes, McCarthy has injury concerns.

Four starters — cornerbacks Kevin King (hamstring) and Bashaud Breeland (groin), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot) and receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) — were inactive on Sunday night. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), left guard Lane Taylor (quad) and safety Kentrell Brice (ankle, concussion) were unable to finish the game.

McCarthy cut some of the meetings out of Monday’s schedule and the team won’t practice in pads on Thursday.

“I think these Sunday night games are taxing, no doubt,” he said. “Obviously, the game last night was a very physical football game. We have a lot of guys that are beat up. There’s going to be extra time sorting through exactly what we need to get done over the next 48 hours to really set our plan for Wednesday.”