Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers underwent a CT scan Monday to evaluate his surgically repaired right clavicle, but head coach Mike McCarthy didn't share a final decision on Rodgers' availability for Sunday. Regardless, the Panthers are preparing to see Rodgers under center this weekend at Bank of America Stadium, and they're aware of the threat a player of his caliber poses.
"That automatically makes them one of the better offenses overall in the entire league," defensive end Wes Horton said. "We'll definitely have our work cut out for us.
"It's definitely a huge, huge challenge."
With Rodgers at the helm this season through Week 5, the Packers were 4-1. In those games, the quarterback tossed 13 touchdowns and amassed 1,367 passing yards, good enough to help the Panthers rank as the fourth-best passing offense in the league at the time.
At odds with the O-line
Green Bay has struggled to protect the quarterback this season. The offensive line has allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL and the eighth-most quarterback hits.
Part of the blame has been directed at Rodgers fill-in Brett Hundley, who's been criticized for his pocket awareness and at times not taking the protection he's given. If Rodgers plays, the offensive line will likely receive help from one of the league's best quarterbacks. With that said, Rodgers was sacked 19 times in his six games played while Hundley has been sacked 24 times in nine games. Regardless, this week they'll face a Panthers team that's totaled 40 sacks, the third most in league.
"We respect every offensive line that we play," Horton said. "It's a new group. They have some good players up front, and it just comes down to our preparation."
Uncertain running game
Every week, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks stresses the importance of stopping the run first, no matter the opponent.
"The biggest thing once again going into this game, as we talk about each and every week, we need to stop the run," Wilks said. "We have to make this team one-dimensional."
The Packers boast two rookies in the running game – Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Both have seen stints as the feature back, but with both healthy the Packers paired the two as a tandem for the first time last Sunday. Granted Green Bay squared off against a Browns rushing defense ranked first in the NFL, but the new duo didn't impress. The tandem combined for 47 yards on 19 rushes in the victory.
Dom Capers' defensive backs
In last year's NFL Draft, the Packers selected cornerback Kevin King to help solve the team's needs on the defensive side. Despite stepping in and out of the lineup adue to a shoulder injury, King has been a mainstay among the defensive backs. The second-round pick has played the most snaps of any of the team's draft choices besides safety Josh Jones, and has proven the ability to handle responsibilities at one of the outside corner positions.
However last Wednesday the Packers placed the rookie on injured reserve, a decision that's having a ripple effect on Green Bay's pass defense. This season the Packers rank 24th in pass defense and on Sunday, Green Bay surrendered three passing touchdowns to the winless Browns.
When Rodgers went down in Week 6, it seemed improbable that the Packers would be in the playoff conversation come December. However, Hundley has kept Green Bay afloat in the loaded NFC and with three games remaining, there's still a chance the Packers can secure a playoff berth.
Upon his return, if Rodgers can lead the Packers to a win over the Panthers and win out, there's a chance Green Bay will be playing football into January.
View the top photos from Panthers vs. Vikings by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.