GREEN BAY, Wis. – The buffet line is open again for the Packers offense with Aaron Rodgers back.
Coach Mike McCarthy has made a few adjustments to the playbook with the franchise quarterback back for the first time in nearly two months after breaking his left collarbone. Rodgers is expected to start Sunday in Green Bays showdown in Chicago with the Bears for the NFC North title.
Keeping Rodgers untouched and upright is paramount. At the same time, the return of Rodgers figures to give the Bears defense a dilemma that hasnt existed for Packers opponents in nearly two months – focus on the passing game at the expense of giving 1,100-yard rusher Eddie Lacy more room to run, or stop the run and give Rodgers more room to operate.
Well, its a lot like going to the restaurant. You have a menu. You decide what you want to use and what you probably shouldnt use, McCarthy said Friday about play-calling.
You have to trust your plan, trust the process and we definitely trust Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy said.
Its hard not to after Rodgers helped lead Green Bay (7-7-1) to a 5-2 record before getting hurt Nov. 4 during the 27-20 loss to Chicago at Lambeau Field. The 2011 NFL MVP was a big reason why the team weathered the spate of early injuries.
The Packers were 2-5-1 without Rodgers, counting the loss to the Bears. McCarthy said Rodgers has looked good in practice this week.
The decisions been made. Obviously, it was a thorough one, and its time for Aaron to play, McCarthy said. Were going to cut him loose and were going to go play. Were going to play to win.
Things could get even trickier for Chicago if the Packers activate receiver Randall Cobb from the injured reserve/designated for return list. Cobb has been moving well during the brief spurts of practice open to media.
Sidelined since October, Cobb was given extra work Friday to determine how he would feel today, when the Packers could decide to activate him.
Green Bay knows it will be without pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews, who had surgery this week after re-aggravating a right thumb injury. Theres no timeline for his return, and it appears highly unlikely that Matthews would be available for a first-round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 4 should the Packers beat Chicago on Sunday to win the division.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers should otherwise have a full complement of linebackers with inside man Brad Jones (ankle) and outside rushers Nick Perry (foot) and Mike Neal (abdomen) all listed as probable for the Bears game.
Chicago gave them trouble the last time around, when the Packers also didnt have Matthews. Matt Forte ran for 125 yards and a score, while physical receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each had touchdown catches.