- Associated Press - Monday, October 25, 2010

GREEN BAY, WIS. (AP) - The Green Bay Packers finally got the best of Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.

And with the Chicago Bears struggling, the NFC North title appears to be there for the taking.

At least for a day, the Packers could forget about their own disappointing start, recent back-to-back overtime losses and a remarkable rash of injuries. Sunday night’s emotional victory over the Vikings brought renewed optimism to Green Bay on Monday.

It also brought a team that hasn’t yet played up to its potential one day closer to a tough road game against the New York Jets on Sunday.

“I don’t think you run around with your pompoms this week,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s the last thing that I’m going to do. Everybody had a chance to enjoy the win last night, and I’m sure everybody feels good today. It was easier coming to work today than it was last week. That’s our business. Winning is important. A lot of good things come off of winning. But it’s onto the next one. It’s a simple as that.”

McCarthy said Monday that the Packers are likely to lose two more players, linebacker Brady Poppinga (left knee) and defensive lineman Mike Neal (shoulder), to season-ending surgeries.

Green Bay already has seven players on injured reserve, including four starters: tight end Jermichael Finley, linebacker Nick Barnett, running back Ryan Grant and safety Morgan Burnett.

And the Packers were far from perfect against the Vikings.

The offense was better on third down that it had been in recent weeks. Running back Brandon Jackson had what McCarthy called his best game as a Packer. The Packers‘ tackles, veteran Chad Clifton and rookie Bryan Bulaga, helped hold the Vikings without a sack.

But Aaron Rodgers had two uncharacteristic interceptions deep in Vikings territory and didn’t appear to be on the same page as his receivers on several throws.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers had to improvise after Cullen Jenkins pulled a calf muscle in pregame warmups and Ryan Pickett reinjured his ankle. The Packers couldn’t play much base defense against a team that was committed to running with Adrian Peterson.

Still, the defense forced Favre into three ugly second-half interceptions. Linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, players who had to deal with diminished roles earlier in the season, both had interceptions Sunday.

And the Packers were able to put pressure on Favre at the end of the game.

In all, there’s a feeling that the Packers are in good position despite not yet playing up to their potential.

“The scary thing is I don’t think we’ve ever played on all cylinders in regards to offense, defense and special teams,” Clay Matthews said Sunday night. “But, you see little flashes here and there. I know defensively with losing some of those key playmakers we’ve still been able to hold our own and take it all of the way down to the wire. Unfortunately, a field goal here or a missed play there, that’s really the difference right now.”

The Packers have tried to downplay the emotion associated with facing their former quarterback, especially after losing to him twice last season. Even after a win, Rodgers wasn’t interested in talking about Favre.

“It’s obviously something that the media has talked about a lot and has brought to my attention, obviously, a number of times,” Rodgers said. “I guess we can maybe stop with some of that for a little while.”

But teammates said Sunday’s win might have meant more to Rodgers than he was letting on.

“I think honestly, it does mean a great deal to him,” Matthews said. “We might see it as any other game, but for him, there’s certainly a little something special. For him, sitting behind Favre, then coming out and putting together two fantastic seasons and losing to him twice, for him to come out against the guy who _ whatever you want to call it, the quarterback who was in front of him _ it means a great deal to him.”

Backup quarterback Matt Flynn sensed it, too.

“I think it means a lot to him,” Flynn said. “Obviously it’s a big game for us as a team, the way the season has gone. But personally, I think this was definitely one he had circled that he wanted to win. I’m happy for him. I’m happy he got it.”

As far as McCarthy was concerned, the celebration ended Monday morning.

“We’re just pulling some things together,” McCarthy said. “It’s a good win. It’s an excellent win as far as the big dose of confidence that comes with a division win and everything surrounding this game. But it’s over. We’re on to the Jets.”