Wounded Packers Chasing Championship

The Packers’ chances of beating the Vikings and staying home for the first round of the postseason might hinge on the health of their offensive line. The injury report provided some good news.

Saturday update: Two players recovering from concussions were involved in the Green Bay Packers' Saturday injury updates.

Defensive tackle B.J. Raji and cornerback Sam Shields were listed as questionable on Friday. After Saturday's practice, Raji was upgraded to probable but Shields was downgraded to doubtful.

Getting back Raji will be key against NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson.

"It’s obviously good to see your starters and your playmakers back on the field," linebacker Clay Matthews said on Thursday. "You look at our entire team last Sunday and we had a number of starters that were injured and the Cardinals took advantage of that and it was hard to overcome. Injuries are an easy excuse but, nonetheless, a guy like B.J., a guy who really can create problems in the run game, it’s only going to help us out, especially this week, where we know they’re going to try and attack us, especially in this type of weather and after the first game, as well."

Shields was limited participation at practice on Wednesday and Thursday but coach Mike McCarthy on Friday said Shields was still in the concussion protocol.

Also upgraded to probable was outside linebacker Mike Neal.

There was no change in status for left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is questionable. McCarthy hoped Bakhtiari would be able to practice on Saturday.

Friday's story: The Green Bay Packers entered this season with a second Super Bowl championship in six years squarely on the radar.

On Sunday night, they’ll play for the NFC North championship against the Minnesota Vikings.

“We make it clear what the goal is here. It’s about winning championships and, obviously, ultimately the world championship,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday morning. “To achieve ultimate success, you definitely have to achieve levels of success to get there. This is a level of success that is definitely measurable. It’s definitely something that takes a lot of work. It’s hard to get to this position where we are today.”

The Packers’ chances of beating the Vikings and staying home for the first round of the postseason might hinge on the health of their offensive line. Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who injured an ankle late in the Dec. 20 win at Oakland, didn’t play last week and didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday. McCarthy thought Bakhtiari might practice on Saturday; barring that, he’d go through a workout on Sunday morning to test his availability. Bulaga, who missed most of the second half vs. Arizona, was limited at practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bakhtiari was listed as questionable and Bulaga as probable. Both would have been limited participation had the team practiced. It's possible their status will be updated on Saturday.

“I think it definitely helped him, absolutely,” McCarthy said of Bulaga’s work this week. “I think that was evident just watching the video and coming off the practice field yesterday. But this is really what Friday’s for, and we’ll see how he responds and see how he shows up today.”

Also important will be the health of cornerback Sam Shields and defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who are recovering from concussions. While both players practiced this week, they remain in the concussion protocol and are questionable.

For Minnesota, it figures to be without defensive tackle Linval Joseph -- one of its top defenders. He is listed as doubtful. Before the release of the injury report, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked if there was a chance Joseph would not play. Zimmer said: "There's a chance I could be a jockey." Everyone else, including running back Adrian Peterson, is probable. Peterson was full participation on Friday after not practicing on Wednesday or Thursday.

The NFL flexed this game into NBC’s prime-time slot because of what’s at stake: a division title and a coveted first-round home playoff game. The Packers have won four consecutive NFC North crowns. A fifth might not be met with much fanfare from a fan base growing increasingly impatient, but it’s an important step down the path.

“It’s a game that’s attractive because you’ve got two excellent football teams fighting to advance their seed in the playoffs,” McCarthy said. “The division championship is important, but getting in the playoffs is the most important because that puts you in a position for the ultimate goal. I’ve always believed in levels of success. I make no bones about it. We understand that we want to hang Super Bowl banners around here, but it’s really irrelevant right now because this is totally a one-game-season mind-set, and we could not be in a better situation to prepare us for playoff play, and that’s to play in in this game Sunday. So if we ever wanted a playoff-type game to totally prepare us for the playoffs, we’re going to play in it Sunday night.”

Here is Friday's injury report.

Packers Injury Report
Player (injury): Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Status.
LT David Bakhtiari (ankle): DNP, DNP, Limited. Questionable.
RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.
DT Mike Daniels (groin): DNP, DNP, Limited. Questionable.
OLB Jayrone Elliott (quad): DNP, DNP, DNP. Out.
DT Letroy Guion (foot): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.
CB Casey Hayward (ankle): Limited, Full, Full. Probable.
RB Eddie Lacy (rib): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.
G T.J. Lang (shoulder): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.
C Corey Linsley (ankle): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.
LB Clay Matthews (ankle): Full, Full, Full. Probable.
OLB Mike Neal (hip): DNP, DNP, Limited. Questionable. Upgrade to Probable.
TE Justin Perillo (hamstring): DNP, DNP, DNP. Out.
OLB Nick Perry (shoulder): Full, Limited, Limited. Probable.
DT B.J. Raji (concussion): DNP, Limited, Limited. Questionable. Upgrade to Probable.
CB Sam Shields (concussion): Limited, Limited, Limited. Questionable. Downgrade to Doubtful.
G Josh Sitton (back): Limited, Limited, Limited. Probable.

Vikings Injury Report
Player (Injury): Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Status.
DT Sharriff Floyd (knee): Limited, Limited, DNP. Probable.
DE Everson Griffen (shoulder): Limited, DNP, Full. Probable.
S Anthony Harris (hip): Full, Full, Full. Probable.
DT Linval Joseph (foot): DNP, DNP, DNP. Doubtful.
LT Matt Kalil (lower leg): Limited, Full, Full. Probable.
RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/shoulder): DNP, DNP, Full. Probable.
S Harrison Smith (hamstring): Limited, Limited, Full. Probable.
WR Adam Thielen (low back): Full, Full, Full. Probable.

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.

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