Defensive Line Struck With Injuries

Ryan Pickett has been ruled out, Mike Neal is questionable and Howard Green is probable for Sunday's game against Chicago. That and more from Friday.

Last week, the Green Bay Packers had only two healthy running backs.

Two weeks earlier, the Packers had only two healthy inside linebackers.

The situation might not be as dire against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but the Packers' defensive line is one beat-up bunch.

Ryan Pickett has been ruled out because of a concussion, Mike Neal is listed as questionable with a shoulder sprain and Howard Green is probable with a sore foot. If Neal can't go, the Packers would have only B.J. Raji, Green, Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson available for what figures to be a run-first Bears offense.

"That's the situation we're in. We're hoping Mike Neal will be ready to go," coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday's practice. "It's unfortunate that Ryan's where he is and we have to be cautious with him based on the progress that he's making through the protocol. We're prepared for it. Hopefully, it's not the type of situation that we were in last week with two running backs. This time of year, everybody goes through it."

By snaps this season, Raji has played in 776, Pickett 429, Wynn 411, Wilson 309, Green 214 and Neal 110, according to Pro Football Focus. Green, however, has been a bigger factor as the defense has been challenged in recent weeks by teams that like to run the ball. In fact, 97 of his snaps have come in the last three games, including 49 of 72 snaps against the Chiefs with Pickett sidelined.

Wynn, who had seen his playing time trimmed to 31 total snaps against Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Giants, has played 67 snaps the last two weeks. Wilson, who hadn't played more than 32 snaps all season – those coming in a 45-7 thumping of Minnesota in Week 10 – has played 95 of 147 snaps the last two weeks. Neal, on the other hand, played a season-low 11 snaps last week, even without Pickett in the game.

"I think they're playing fine," McCarthy said of Wynn and Wilson. "Obviously, it'll be a situation where they'll probably have a lot of reps. They're prepared and ready to go for Chicago. It's the same game almost every time these two teams line up, and it's going to start up front. We're expecting all of our linemen to factor in this game."

Jennings update

Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings came strolling through the locker room with a rolling basket filled with Christmas gifts. He won't provide any gifts to the team on Christmas, as he's been ruled out with a knee sprain, and he probably won't play against Detroit in the season-finale, either.

However, McCarthy did have some good news, based on current medical reports: "I don't think there will be any question that he'll play in the playoffs."

Playing to win

The Packers (13-1) need a win against Chicago on Sunday to clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, unless Seattle wins at home against San Francisco (11-3) on Saturday. McCarthy, however, seems to be leaning to playing this game to win, even if the Packers have nothing to play for.

"We're preparing to play this game, and frankly, I don't really see anything changing my mind on that," he said. "I can't worry about what other people are doing. We've got 13 wins, our target's been 14. That's the way we'll go into the weekend."

Packers injury report

Out: RT Bryan Bulaga (did not participate; knee); LT Chad Clifton (limited; hamstring/back); WR Greg Jennings (did not participate; knee); DE Ryan Pickett (did not participate; concussion). Questionable: DE Mike Neal (limited; shoulder). Probable: LB Desmond Bishop (full; calf); DE Howard Green (limited; foot); RB Brandon Saine (full; concussion); RB James Starks (full; knee/ankle).

Bears injury report

Out: QB Jay Cutler (right thumb); RB Matt Forte (knee). Doubtful: RB Marion Barber (calf). Questionable: LB Lance Briggs (limited; ankle); WR Devin Hester (did not participate; ankle); DT Henry Melton (limited; shin). Probable: TE Kellen Davis (full; knee).

Hester will be a game-time decision. Without Forte and, probably, Barber, Khalil Bell will get the bulk of the work in the backfield. He rushed 15 times for 65 yards and caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown last week against Seattle.

Four-point stance -- Last week, the Packers had to scrap their initial game plan when the Chiefs announced they were switching quarterbacks from young, athletic Tyler Palko to veteran pocket-passer Kyle Orton. This week, the Bears changed from young, athletic Caleb Hanie to veteran, athletic Josh McCown, who hasn't started a game since 2007 and only thrown eight passes in the previous three seasons. "I think it's going to be very similar to if we had the other guy," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "This guy, I think he's a good athlete. He can run with the ball."

-- The forecast for Sunday calls for mostly cloudy skies, with a high of 35 and low of 25, and just a 20 percent chance of precipitation. "I'm not worried about the weather," McCarthy said. "That's a nice day in Green Bay in December."

-- Clifton was limited again at practice and won't play this week. Would it be imperative for him to get some snaps next week to kick off some of the rust for the playoffs? "I think as a coach, you're always going to value experience, value repetition, value getting the Rustoleum out and getting the varnish off or whatever it may be," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said on Thursday. "You're always going to want to do that. But again, a guy that's played 12 years in the National Football League, it's probably not as imperative. I'm going to say, Chad's got 10,000 snaps in his vault. Is it important that he gets 25? Boy, we'd love to have it. Who knows? At the end of the day, the big picture of things, I don't know."

-- With 4,360 passing yards, Aaron Rodgers needs to throw for 99 yards to break Lynn Dickey's franchise-record 4,458, set in 1983.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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