While it may be too late to help them get into the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers are hoping to get Aaron Rodgers on the field for their final four games.
The Packers star quarterback's status remains unknown for Sunday's visit from the Atlanta Falcons.
Green Bay has gone 0-4-1 since Rodgers broke his collarbone in the first quarter of a 27-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. The Packers (5-6-1) were routed 40-10 in Detroit in their latest game on Thanksgiving and lost a key tiebreaker to the Lions, who clinched the best record in NFC North play.
Green Bay might have a decision on Rodgers' status as early as Friday.
"It's a medical decision. There were three parts to it: the strength, the range of motion and the evidence that we see on the scan. Two out of three are passed so far,' Rodgers said. "I can't control the healing of my bone. That's frustrating. But I've been preparing as if I was going to play every week and trying to help Matt (Flynn) and Scott (Tolzien) out as much as I possibly can."
Green Bay is 1 1/2 games behind Detroit, and it's far less likely it can make up a 2 1/2-game deficit on San Francisco for the NFC's final wild-card spot. The 49ers also own the tiebreaker over the Packers by virtue of their 34-28 win in Week 1.
"We're still in it. We need Detroit to lose two out of four, but the biggest part of that is us winning out," Rodgers said. "We've got to control what we can control. That starts this weekend. We have to get a W."
In their final four games, the Packers will face only one team currently with a winning record, making a visit to Dallas on Dec. 15. While they have a meager record, the Falcons (3-9) might have a little more confidence after a 34-31 overtime win against Buffalo this past weekend.
Atlanta totaled 423 yards - its most in eight contests - while ending a five-game losing streak. Matt Ryan overcame a season-high six sacks to top 300 yards passing for the first time in five games, and Roddy White had easily his best performance in 2013 with 10 catches for 143 yards.
Steven Jackson, meanwhile, scored a pair of touchdowns while setting season bests with 23 carries and 84 yards. Jackson was averaging 36.4 yards in the previous seven games in this injury-shortened campaign.
"I think we can always be better," Jackson said. "I think we can always hope for things to be better as well. We just have to be consistent in our work and continue to show up day to day, week to week, with the same expectations."
Tony Gonzalez caught Ryan's lone touchdown pass in that game despite dealing with an ailing toe, and he's 79 yards shy of becoming the fifth NFL receiver - and only tight end - to reach 15,000. However, he was also among four players limited in practice earlier this week.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), center Peter Konz (ankle) and backup safety Zeke Motta (hand) were the others.
Weatherspoon is hoping to get a chance to stop Rodgers and rookie running back Eddie Lacy.
Lacy is ninth in the NFL with 822 yards but had just 16 on 10 carries in Detroit after rushing for 110 in a 26-all tie with Minnesota on Nov. 24.
"(Stopping Lacy) is big. You want to get a lot of people to him early," Weatherspoon said. "With Aaron, he gets the ball out quick and knows where he wants to go with it. He knows how to make defenders move a certain way. He has one of the strongest arms in the NFL so that poses a challenge."
Rodgers has topped 300 yards in each of his four career matchups with the Falcons, including a 48-21 playoff victory in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 2011. He has totaled nine touchdowns to just one interception in those games, and passed for 396 yards and two TDs in a 25-14 victory Oct. 9, 2011.
Ryan, meanwhile, has failed to surpass 200 yards in any of his four games against Green Bay, and has five interceptions and five touchdowns in those matchups.
Jackson has averaged 91.8 yards in his six lifetime meetings with Green Bay but had 57 on 12 carries in his most recent one, a 30-20 loss for St. Louis on Oct. 21, 2012.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved