Green Bay Packers: After a surprisingly lopsided loss to the Saints on Monday night, the Packers need to get back on track quickly this Sunday when they host the Panthers if they want to stay in the thick of the playoff race.
"Five games left to play and we're not out of anything. It's right in front of us," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following the 51-29 loss to New Orleans. "We need to win football games. We know that; that's our focus. We don't want to be in a position where we're watching other scores and so forth, and we still have that opportunity."
With just five games remaining, the Packers will likely need to win the NFC North title to secure a playoff berth. Ten NFC clubs have a better record than Green Bay as the team heads into this weekend's big game against the 8–3 Panthers, making it unlikely that the team will qualify for a wildcard spot.
Trailing the Bears and the Vikings by just one game for the top position in the AFC North, a loss to Carolina would drop the Packers two games behind the division leader since Chicago and Minnesota square-off in a Sunday night matchup.
But while Carolina has been dominant in some of their games this seasons, they lost last weekend at Atlanta by a score of 45–28. All three of Carolina's' losses have occurred during road games, and they only won their other two away games by an average of 6.5 points.
Denver Broncos: Despite the Raiders being flagged for three roughing the passer penalties during Denver's 31–10 loss to the Raiders last Sunday, head coach Mike Shanahan didn't think that Oakland's defenders were purposely trying to injure quarterback Jay Cutler.
Broncos QB Jay Cutler
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
"I think everybody is going to take shots at him, but I don't think it was intentional," he said following the game. "If you hit the helmet to the quarterback it's going to be a 15-yarder and I don't think anybody wants a 15-yarder. They want to get to him and a lot of times it's that fine line between pulling off and trying to get a hit."
Cutler is currently third in the league in passing yards with 3,036 and is tied for fifth with the Colts' Peyton Manning for touchdown passes thrown (19). But his 60.6-percent completion rate is only 19th-best in the NFL, and his 12 interceptions put him in a tie with Minnesota's Gus Frerotte for the second-highest total among active starters.
Shanahan still appears to be very pleased with the progress of his young quarterback.
"I think he's been very good overall. He's in his third year, he has a good feel for defenses, he knows when he plays well and he knows when he plays poorly," he said. "The decisions that he makes are an ongoing process for a quarterback.
"The thing that I love about him is he is a great competitor. He loves to compete, and if you have a competitor on your hands then you have a chance to do something special."
Indianapolis Colts: While the Colts have logged four consecutive wins, their offensive line woes are continuing. On Tuesday, the team announced that former starting guard Ryan Lilja would not be activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list, ending his season. The talented fifth-year player will have surgery on the knee that has kept him out of all 11 of the team's contests this season.
Meanwhile, reports out of Indianapolis indicate that Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday could miss three to four weeks of action following a calf strain that sidelined him during the team's Sunday night win over the Chargers.
"He might make it back sooner than that, but that's the conservative prognosis," Colts President Bill Polian said during his weekly radio show.
Indianapolis is currently in position to claim a wildcard spot. They take on the Cleveland Browns this weekend.
Atlanta Falcons: Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff praised wide receiver Michael Jenkins and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux after the team extended the contracts of both players on Tuesday.
"We're excited and pleased to extend the contracts of Falcons players who have made significant contributions to the overall success of our football team," Dimitroff said in a press release issued by the team. "Michael and Jonathan are both team guys who work hard on and off the field and are both very productive on Sundays."
Jenkins, the team's first-round pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, was given a four-year extension. During his five seasons as a pro, he's caught 168 passes for 2,093 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"I'm really excited to continue my career here in Atlanta," said Jenkins. "The team-oriented program is something I want to continue to be a part of."
Babineaux, who was picked up during the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft by Atlanta, received a five-year extension. In 56 game appearances with the Falcons, Babineaux has been credited with 150 tackles (106 solo), 6.5 sacks for a loss of 43.5 yards, one interception, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six passes defensed.
"I'm happy that this deal got done," said Babineaux. "This is a great organization with a great group of players and coaches."
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.