The upside for the Packers is that Rodgers isn't coming back to win this game all by himself. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy has become a force in the backfield, rushing for 1,112 yards and 10 touchdowns. If he's not hindered by a nagging ankle injury, Lacy should create significant problems for a Bears team that has the league's worst rushing defense. The Packers haven't been immune to their own defensive issues but they have found ways to create critical turnovers at important moments. Even with star linebacker Clay Matthews out because of an injured thumb, it's conceivable that they'll continue that trend.
More than anything, the Packers have the faith that comes from beating the odds. Prior to the season, nobody would've believed this team would have a shot at the playoffs if Rodgers was going to miss seven games and other key starters (Matthews, left tackle Bryan Bulaga, tight end Jermichael Finley, wide receiver Randall Cobb) would be sidelined for significant periods of time, as well. The Packers have used three different quarterbacks and needed a bunch of timely breaks simply to stay alive. They know they've created their own good fortune by not letting self-doubt corrupt their collective spirits.
That type of resilience means as much at this time of year as the presence of Rodgers. It helped the Packers overcome a slew of injuries during their Super Bowl run in the 2010 season and it certainly will take them past the Bears on Sunday. You can bet that at least one person in that organization has made that point over the last few days. They have to feel like destiny is working in their favor, just as it did three seasons ago.
The 2010 Packers had to beat the Bears just to make the postseason. They then played three straight road games before facing Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. That Green Bay team also didn't have any real believers outside the state of Wisconsin until it blasted Atlanta in the divisional round of the playoffs. This team will be flying under the radar until it has a similarly impressive victory.
What the Packers do have is confidence and character. A win over Chicago means a wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field. Then there's another opportunity to make a statement in the divisional round of the postseason, with Rodgers two games into his comeback. In other words, maybe it wasn't such a big deal that McCarthy couldn't smile on Thursday.
From the way things look in Green Bay right now, he'll have more opportunities in the coming weeks.