The Green Bay Packers should be thankful that the Detroit Lions embarrassed them with a 40-10 loss on a national stage on Thanksgiving Day, sending them 1.5 games back of the division lead and bringing their record for the month of November to 0-4-1 and to 5-6-1 overall.
Now, the Packers understand that Aaron Rodgers' return, which he told ESPN's Bob Holtzman could come as early as Week 14 against the Atlanta Falcons, won't cure everything. In fact, with the team in the place it proved to be Thursday, it hardly cures anything—the offensive line has collapsed around itself; the run defense, ranked third early in the season, allowed the Lions 241 rushing yards, and the leaky secondary is looking more like swiss cheese than Wisconsin cheddar.
Thursday was rock bottom, a wake-up call—the worst offensive showing by the team in seven years. But all is not lost, not yet. Despite not having won a game in five weeks, the division-title window has not yet closed. And a division title is the Packers' most likely way into the playoffs, with the Carolina Panthers (8-3), San Francisco 49ers (7-4), Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) and Chicago Bears (6-5) holding up the line for a wild card bid.
First, and most obviously, the Packers—back 1.5 games behind the Lions and one game behind the Bears—must win out their final four games. In this division, where each team has demonstrated the ability to be its own worst enemy, finishing 9-6-1 could still earn an NFC North title.
But more specifically, the team will need to make the adjustments on offensive line, defense and special teams that Rodgers' return, though it will help, will not make for them.
If the Packers have it in them to win out, and with a little luck in the way of two losses apiece for the Lions and Bears, the following six keys will be crucial to any chance of a division crown.