When are the Green Bay Packers not the Green Bay Packers?
Well, when half the team -- or so it seems to coach Mike McCarthy anyway -- is dealing with injuries.
The short-handed Packers, who've won four of five since a slow September start, will host a team going in the opposite direction Sunday when the suddenly plummeting Arizona Cardinals visit Lambeau Field.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt and Co. were unbeaten in four September games, but went 0-4 in October to go from first in the NFC West to two games behind the front- running San Francisco 49ers.
The Packers, meanwhile, are 1 1/2 games back of the streaking Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Already without receiver Greg Jennings (abdominal), running back Cedric Benson (foot) and defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone), Green Bay lost receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) prior to last weekend's win at Jacksonville and his status is questionable for this week.
Defensive ends Jerel Worthy (concussion) and Mike Neal (knee) were hurt in the game against the Jaguars and are also in doubt for the meeting with the Cardinals.
"The injuries are part of the game. It's unfortunate on a personal level," McCarthy said. "There's things that go on in our world in the game of football that are just unsaid. It's just the way you go about your business. It's what you accept and it's part of the grind of an NFL season."
Providing it gets through Week 9 in one piece, Green Bay has a bye next week. But that's a fact that makes McCarthy wary.
"The players clearly know the importance of this game," McCarthy said. "We may have made the mistake of looking forward to the bye week in the past, and that's losing your focus. We're focused on the Cardinals."
Arizona's drop to .500 was completed by the Niners on Monday night in the form of a 24-3 trouncing. The Cardinals gained just seven rushing yards, their fewest in a game in 59 years.
"My biggest sense is that I feel like I've let our fans down," Whisenhunt said. "We've let our fans down as a team, and that hurts."
Quarterback John Skelton completed 32 of a career-high 52 passes with one interception against San Francisco and will make his third straight start after Kevin Kolb was sidelined indefinitely with injured ribs.
"We'll get on these guys more, and I think one of the things is we'll have the players get on the players," Whisenhunt said. "Peer pressure plays a part in that. You've got to get on your leaders to do that, but let's not get into a panic here and start changing things up. We're going to continue to do what we do, and we're going to do it better."
The Packers gained a season-low 238 yards in a 24-15 win at Jacksonville, where Aaron Rodgers threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He has 11 TDs and no interceptions during a three-game win streak.
"It's good to be on this side of an ugly win," Rodgers said. "The expectations were we were going to come out and maybe blow them out, but we didn't start fast. We didn't have enough juice early on and didn't play well enough on offense to get that done."
Arizona is 31st in the league in total offense, averaging 289.9 yards. But a No. 6 defense has allowed just 312.8 yards per game.
"Times are bad right now," center Lyle Sendlein said. "The only way to get out of that is to win games. You do that by going to work Monday through Saturday. We just have to start punching people in the mouth."
In their last meeting, Arizona beat Green Bay, 51-45, in overtime in January 2010 -- the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history. Rodgers threw for 423 yards in that contest, exactly a week after going 21-for-26 for 235 yards and a TD in a Week 17 33-7 win over the Cardinals.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
With the credentials he's posted since succeeding Brett Favre -- an MVP and a Super Bowl win among them -- Rodgers is a target of any team the Packers face.
Green Bay is averaging 254.5 yards per game and accounted for 22 touchdowns, which provides a challenge for the Cardinals -- who are fourth in the league against the pass, allowing 192.9 yards per game and intercepting eight passes while surrendering nine touchdowns.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will be hoping to keep Rodgers in the pocket and keep him from extending plays with his mobility.
While the Cardinals showed some elite-level chops in the early part of the season, their tumble to the middle of the West pack has highlighted shortcomings, especially on offense. Against a perpetually prolific foe like Rodgers, it's going to be difficult for the defense to keep things close enough for Skelton to engineer a decisive sequence.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 24, Cardinals 14