NFC North news, notes and quotes

Injuries on the Bears offense are putting pressure on their defense, the Lions are thinking win and they're in, and the Packers hope for a 49ers loss and Green Bay the No. 1 seed. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' division rivals.


Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler and Matt Forte remain out.

Devin Hester has a gimpy ankle.

The offensive line is without two of its opening-day starters and is using a guard at right tackle (Lance Louis) with disastrous results as of late. The left tackle (J'Marcus Webb) may have played his worst game of the season Sunday.

The entire team has been sucker-punched by the federal drug charges against wide receiver/special teams standout Sam Hurd.

Forte's replacement, Marion Barber, has made enough critical mistakes in three games to last a season. Cutler's replacement, Caleb Hanie, has yet to demonstrate any proficiency at the NFL level.

Obviously, it is not the offense that has the ability to halt the team's four-game losing streak that has the 7-7 Bears on the verge of elimination from the playoff picture.

No one expects that the offense will be appreciably better than it has been the past three weeks, when it averaged a pathetic 216 yards of total offense and a total of 27 points, seven of which came courtesy of the defense.

If there is any chance of turning around the Bears' fortunes, which were so bright five weeks ago, it will be up to the defense, which has the unenviable task this week of facing the Packers, the NFL's highest-scoring team.

The Bears are clinging to playoff hopes that are thinner than toilet paper. A large part of the reason is a passing offense that has failed to generate 90 net yards in any of the past three games.

The only way the Bears keep those faint playoff hopes alive is with superior defense.

The Bears have proven they can stop the run, but that's not the main objective against the Packers, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 40 touchdown passes and just six interceptions this season.

  • As if the Bears' vertical passing game weren't challenged enough by the loss of quarterback Jay Cutler a month ago, it is now without deep threat Johnny Knox for the remainder of the season, and Devin Hester's availability is iffy.

    Knox had surgery Monday morning to stabilize a vertebra in his lower back that was injured when he was bent backward in a collision with Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

    "It was a brutal hit that he took," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But just looking to the future, it looks bright for him to play and to get back out there (next year), so we're encouraged by that."

    That was the extent of the good news emanating from Halas Hall on Monday, while the question of who would start at quarterback was left open for debate.

    "Right now, Caleb Hanie is our starting quarterback," Smith said when asked who would lead the Bears Sunday in Green Bay against the Packers. But he added, "None of those decisions have been made. With any of our positions, we evaluate the video, which we're doing right now, and on Wednesday, you'll have an idea."

    It's difficult to imagine the passing offense getting any worse, since it has generated less than 90 net yards in each of the past three games.

    Backup Josh McCown says he's ready to run the offense after less than four weeks with team, but having spent the 2006 season with the Lions in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme.

    Rookie Nathan Enderle appears to be strictly an emergency option.

    "This isn't a tryout period," Smith said when asked if he'd like to see the fifth-round draft pick get a shot. "We're trying to win a football game. So the guys that give us the best opportunity to do that will be on the field."

    After the Bears decide who will play quarterback against the Packers, it will be interesting to see if the lucky winner has anyone to throw it to down the field.

    Knox has the highest average per catch (19.6) in the NFL, and he was the Bears' best downfield threat, even though he had just two touchdown catches this season. Hester has been in and out of the lineup for weeks with ankle injuries and illness, and he was even replaced on some punt returns Sunday.

    Even when healthy, Hester has had virtually no role in the offense, often playing just a handful of snaps, as he did Sunday. In four of the last six games, he has failed to make a single catch, and in those six games, he has a total of four receptions for 47 yards.

    So who's going to stretch the opposing defenses, which are already overplaying the run with extra players in the box?

    "Fair question," Smith said. "We've lost some of our firepower out there with Devin, the best returner in the history of the game. He knows how to make you miss, he stretches the field -- it's on record. Johnny has (also) had that role for us. So we're missing those guys. But, when you're down a few players, you have to adjust what you do and find other ways to move the ball down the field. You just don't have to do it going vertical always, and that's what we have to do."

    NOTES

  • WR Devin Hester did not have a single catch in Week 15 for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Because of a balky sprained ankle, Hester was even replaced on some punt returns, and he did not field any of the punts for which he was on the field.

  • WR Earl Bennett has three catches for 30 yards in four games with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. He filled in briefly on punt returns Sunday and had one return for 7 yards.

  • FS Chris Conte was placed on injured reserve with a foot/ankle sprain.

  • S Major Wright has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, but if he's healthy, he will start at free safety in place of injured Chris Conte (foot/ankle, injured reserve).

  • S Brandon Meriweather will start in place of Chris Conte (foot/ankle, injured reserve) if Major Wright (shoulder) cannot play.


    Detroit Lions

    The Lions' easiest path to their first playoff berth in 12 years is to beat San Diego on Saturday. They win, they're in. No more questions asked.

    And that's the only scenario coach Jim Schwartz is allowing his team to focus on this week.

    "I think everybody understands it; we need to beat the San Diego Chargers," he said. "We are not playing the out-of-town scoreboard. We are not playing anything other than the Chargers.

    "Everybody knows where we are. Everybody knows what is at stake, and that puts a little bit more importance on the San Diego Chargers on Saturday."

    He doesn't want to hear talk about how the team is in control of its own destiny, either.

    "The only thing we control is how we practice this week and how we prepare this week for the San Diego Chargers," he said. "Destiny doesn't have a whole lot to do with it."

    Whether he will acknowledge it or not, there are other scenarios in which the Lions can win a wild-card spot. They are:

  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus a Dallas loss or tie.

  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus a New York Giants loss or tie.

  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus an Atlanta win or tie.

    "You mentioned playoffs; we're not in the playoffs," Schwartz said. "We're playing a San Diego Chargers team that is a very, very talented team that started off the season 4-1 and won their last three. They're averaging close to 38 points a game over the last three weeks, only giving up 12."

    NOTES

  • QB Matthew Stafford, who is 23 years and 10 months old, has passed for 4,145 yards and a team-record 33 touchdowns. That makes him the second youngest quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns in a season. The youngest was hall-of-famer Dan Marino, who did it in 1984.

  • RB Kevin Smith apparently didn't do any further damage on his sprained ankle Sunday. He was on the practice field Tuesday and expects to play on Saturday. The Lions will need him to be more effective than he was, though. He averaged just 2.9 yards a carry.

  • WR Calvin Johnson, in addition to his personal best 214 receiving yards and two touchdowns, was also on the field on the last play of the game, trying to block Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field goal. It's not the first time the Lions have used him on the field goal block unit. "He can jump 44 inches," Schwartz said when asked why he was out there. "He's a great athlete and he breaks a lot of molds when it comes to what a wide receiver's supposed to do. He also blocks very well. We scored some touchdowns this year based on his blocking."

  • WR Nate Burleson is having his most productive season since 2009, when he was with Seattle. He has 61 catches, seven off his career best, and 629 yards.

  • WR Titus Young, after a slow start, has been validating the second-round pick the Lions used to get him. He's caught 40 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns, far eclipsing the combined production the team got out of the third receiver position last season (21 catches, 240 yards).

  • TE Brandon Pettigrew has 67 catches for 583 yards this season. He needs five more catches to break his own single-season mark. He needs three catches to become the first tight end in team history to catch 70 passes in multiple seasons. And, with another 17 yards, he will become the third Lions tight end ever produce 600 yards in multiple seasons (Jim Gibbons and David Hill were the others).

  • LS Don Muhlbach did not practice on Tuesday. He was banged up during a punt on Sunday. The nature of his injury was not revealed. C Dominic Raiola handled the long-snapping in practice.

  • DT Ndamukong Suh had two tackles and blocked field goal in his return. Said coach Jim Schwartz: "About the same as always. He didn't show up great on the stat sheet, but he affected the game. He's a very consistent player when it comes to week-to-week."


    Green Bay Packers


    The Packers will know a few hours before Santa and his reindeer-pulled sleigh roll through town late Saturday night whether they received an early Christmas gift.

    After watching with disappointment Monday as the San Francisco 49ers clobbered the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay will be hoping the 49ers stumble on a short week when they play the upstart Seattle Seahawks on the road Saturday afternoon.

    A loss by the 49ers (11-3), who are two games behind the 13-1 Packers in the NFC race with two weeks left, would give Green Bay the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs.

    Conversely, a win by San Francisco would put the onus back on the Packers to clinch home-field advantage on their own when they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, the only NFL game being played on Christmas.

    The latter scenario of having to beat the Bears to take away any suspense for the final week of the regular season just might be what Green Bay needs. The Packers are recovering from a loss for the first time in a calendar year after the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 19-14 shocker Sunday.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy, who was gung-ho on extending Green Bay's stirring 19-game winning streak, doesn't buy into the notion a loss can jar a previously invincible team to flip on the switch and refocus.

    Yet, McCarthy isn't concerned about how his shaken and injury-ravaged squad will respond this week.

    "I feel very good about our football team," he said. "We're 13-1. Our team clearly understands the roller-coaster ride that everybody likes to take you on. We knew the ride would just go that way. So, it's important to stay in touch with reality.

    "We had a chance to look at the video (of Sunday's game). There's some things we didn't do very well that we need to do better, and that's what we're focused on. I'm not going to react to one game."

    No matter what comes of Saturday's game for the 49ers, the Packers' focus is squarely on making Christmas miserable for the reeling Bears.

    "My confidence hasn't wavered," McCarthy said. "We've got our next two games at home. We feel very good about the opportunity to clinch home-field advantage, and that's really what our focus is on. We're putting our focus tighter on improving as a team, and there's things that we need to get better at."

    The problems with the Packers' offensive line aren't expected to be solved anytime soon.

    As the team started to pick up the pieces Monday following its shocking first loss in 2011, coach Mike McCarthy was the bearer of more glum news about his beleaguered line.

    Team doctor Pat McKenzie diagnosed the left knee injury that knocked right tackle Bryan Bulaga out of the 19-14 setback at Kansas City on Sunday as a sprain of the kneecap.

    "He'll be challenged to play this week," said McCarthy, looking ahead to a game against the rival Chicago Bears on Christmas night.

    McCarthy went so far as to say the coaches are of the mind-set that the Packers (13-1) will go into Sunday's contest with the patchwork line they had at the end of the last contest.

    That would mean starting left guard T.J. Lang over at right tackle, where he moved after Green Bay lost Bulaga and then rookie replacement Derek Sherrod to a broken right leg early in the fourth quarter. Evan Dietrich-Smith finished the game at left guard after starting the previous two games at right guard for Josh Sitton, who returned to action from a knee sprain.

    "It's next guy up," McCarthy said. "That's something that every football team goes through. We've had extensive experience (coping with injuries) over the last year, so we're in a little bit of that mode right now. The personnel staff is looking at the options, so we potentially may add somebody (to the line group) by Wednesday."

    Sherrod, the team's first-round draft pick this year, is headed to injured reserve. He underwent successful surgery Sunday night in Kansas City after being leg-whipped by Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali while blocking on a pass play.

    The team is hopeful of having Sherrod return to Green Bay by the end of the week.

    Meanwhile, McCarthy is keeping his fingers crossed veteran left tackle Chad Clifton finally will be able to practice this week. Clifton has been sidelined since suffering a torn hamstring in the Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta and then injuring his back amid his rehab a few weeks ago.

    "The plan for Chad Clifton is ...," said McCarthy, as he tapped on his podium, "we want him to go through individual drills Wednesday. That's the goal. We feel he's reached that point. We'll see what Wednesday brings us."

    Second-year player Marshall Newhouse has been the starting replacement for Clifton, and he had another rough performance Sunday going against Hali. The Chiefs' talented pass rusher produced three sacks and forced a fumble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers that Green Bay recovered.

    Rodgers was sacked four times in the game and took several hits for the third straight game.

    NOTES

  • WR Greg Jennings, the team leader in pass receptions, remains out indefinitely because of a left knee sprain. He missed his first game Sunday and probably won't be ready until the start of the playoffs.

  • RB James Starks, the team's top rusher, figures to have his workload increased in practice this week with an eye on possibly playing Sunday. Starks has missed the last two games because of an aggravated ankle injury. He returned to practice on a limited basis Friday.

  • DE Ryan Pickett is expected to get back on the field at some point this week and possibly play Sunday night. The veteran starter didn't play against the Chiefs after suffering a concussion in the previous game.

  • RB Brandon Saine also missed Sunday's game because of a concussion. Early indication is the rookie backup should be able to return to practice this week.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers will be looking to bounce back in the prime-time holiday game against the rival Bears after having his worst passing performance of the season at Kansas City. Rodgers had a passer rating of just 80.5 as he completed only 17 of 35 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown -- his first game with fewer than two TD passes. Rodgers continues to lead the league with a club-record 40 touchdown throws and a passer rating of 120.1.


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Jay Cutler and Matt Forte remain out. Devin Hester has a gimpy ankle. The offensive line is without two of its opening-day starters and is using a guard at right tackle (Lance Louis) with disastrous results as of late. The left tackle (J'Marcus Webb) may have played his worst game of the season Sunday. The entire team has been sucker-punched by the federal drug charges against wide receiver/special teams standout Sam Hurd. Forte's replacement, Marion Barber, has made enough critical mistakes in three games to last a season. Cutler's replacement, Caleb Hanie, has yet to demonstrate any proficiency at the NFL level. Obviously, it is not the offense that has the ability to halt the team's four-game losing streak that has the 7-7 Bears on the verge of elimination from the playoff picture. No one expects that the offense will be appreciably better than it has been the past three weeks, when it averaged a pathetic 216 yards of total offense and a total of 27 points, seven of which came courtesy of the defense. If there is any chance of turning around the Bears' fortunes, which were so bright five weeks ago, it will be up to the defense, which has the unenviable task this week of facing the Packers, the NFL's highest-scoring team. The Bears are clinging to playoff hopes that are thinner than toilet paper. A large part of the reason is a passing offense that has failed to generate 90 net yards in any of the past three games. The only way the Bears keep those faint playoff hopes alive is with superior defense. The Bears have proven they can stop the run, but that's not the main objective against the Packers, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 40 touchdown passes and just six interceptions this season.
  • As if the Bears' vertical passing game weren't challenged enough by the loss of quarterback Jay Cutler a month ago, it is now without deep threat Johnny Knox for the remainder of the season, and Devin Hester's availability is iffy. Knox had surgery Monday morning to stabilize a vertebra in his lower back that was injured when he was bent backward in a collision with Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove. \"It was a brutal hit that he took,\" Bears coach Lovie Smith said. \"But just looking to the future, it looks bright for him to play and to get back out there (next year), so we're encouraged by that.\" That was the extent of the good news emanating from Halas Hall on Monday, while the question of who would start at quarterback was left open for debate. \"Right now, Caleb Hanie is our starting quarterback,\" Smith said when asked who would lead the Bears Sunday in Green Bay against the Packers. But he added, \"None of those decisions have been made. With any of our positions, we evaluate the video, which we're doing right now, and on Wednesday, you'll have an idea.\" It's difficult to imagine the passing offense getting any worse, since it has generated less than 90 net yards in each of the past three games. Backup Josh McCown says he's ready to run the offense after less than four weeks with team, but having spent the 2006 season with the Lions in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme. Rookie Nathan Enderle appears to be strictly an emergency option. \"This isn't a tryout period,\" Smith said when asked if he'd like to see the fifth-round draft pick get a shot. \"We're trying to win a football game. So the guys that give us the best opportunity to do that will be on the field.\" After the Bears decide who will play quarterback against the Packers, it will be interesting to see if the lucky winner has anyone to throw it to down the field. Knox has the highest average per catch (19.6) in the NFL, and he was the Bears' best downfield threat, even though he had just two touchdown catches this season. Hester has been in and out of the lineup for weeks with ankle injuries and illness, and he was even replaced on some punt returns Sunday. Even when healthy, Hester has had virtually no role in the offense, often playing just a handful of snaps, as he did Sunday. In four of the last six games, he has failed to make a single catch, and in those six games, he has a total of four receptions for 47 yards. So who's going to stretch the opposing defenses, which are already overplaying the run with extra players in the box? \"Fair question,\" Smith said. \"We've lost some of our firepower out there with Devin, the best returner in the history of the game. He knows how to make you miss, he stretches the field -- it's on record. Johnny has (also) had that role for us. So we're missing those guys. But, when you're down a few players, you have to adjust what you do and find other ways to move the ball down the field. You just don't have to do it going vertical always, and that's what we have to do.\"
  • WR Devin Hester did not have a single catch in Week 15 for the fourth time in the last six weeks. Because of a balky sprained ankle, Hester was even replaced on some punt returns, and he did not field any of the punts for which he was on the field.
  • WR Earl Bennett has three catches for 30 yards in four games with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. He filled in briefly on punt returns Sunday and had one return for 7 yards.
  • FS Chris Conte was placed on injured reserve with a foot/ankle sprain.
  • S Major Wright has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, but if he's healthy, he will start at free safety in place of injured Chris Conte (foot/ankle, injured reserve).
  • S Brandon Meriweather will start in place of Chris Conte (foot/ankle, injured reserve) if Major Wright (shoulder) cannot play. The Lions' easiest path to their first playoff berth in 12 years is to beat San Diego on Saturday. They win, they're in. No more questions asked. And that's the only scenario coach Jim Schwartz is allowing his team to focus on this week. \"I think everybody understands it; we need to beat the San Diego Chargers,\" he said. \"We are not playing the out-of-town scoreboard. We are not playing anything other than the Chargers. \"Everybody knows where we are. Everybody knows what is at stake, and that puts a little bit more importance on the San Diego Chargers on Saturday.\" He doesn't want to hear talk about how the team is in control of its own destiny, either. \"The only thing we control is how we practice this week and how we prepare this week for the San Diego Chargers,\" he said. \"Destiny doesn't have a whole lot to do with it.\" Whether he will acknowledge it or not, there are other scenarios in which the Lions can win a wild-card spot. They are:
  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus a Dallas loss or tie.
  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus a New York Giants loss or tie.
  • A Chicago loss or tie plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Seattle loss or tie plus an Atlanta win or tie. \"You mentioned playoffs; we're not in the playoffs,\" Schwartz said. \"We're playing a San Diego Chargers team that is a very, very talented team that started off the season 4-1 and won their last three. They're averaging close to 38 points a game over the last three weeks, only giving up 12.\"
  • QB Matthew Stafford, who is 23 years and 10 months old, has passed for 4,145 yards and a team-record 33 touchdowns. That makes him the second youngest quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns in a season. The youngest was hall-of-famer Dan Marino, who did it in 1984.
  • RB Kevin Smith apparently didn't do any further damage on his sprained ankle Sunday. He was on the practice field Tuesday and expects to play on Saturday. The Lions will need him to be more effective than he was, though. He averaged just 2.9 yards a carry.
  • WR Calvin Johnson, in addition to his personal best 214 receiving yards and two touchdowns, was also on the field on the last play of the game, trying to block Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field goal. It's not the first time the Lions have used him on the field goal block unit. \"He can jump 44 inches,\" Schwartz said when asked why he was out there. \"He's a great athlete and he breaks a lot of molds when it comes to what a wide receiver's supposed to do. He also blocks very well. We scored some touchdowns this year based on his blocking.\"
  • WR Nate Burleson is having his most productive season since 2009, when he was with Seattle. He has 61 catches, seven off his career best, and 629 yards.
  • WR Titus Young, after a slow start, has been validating the second-round pick the Lions used to get him. He's caught 40 passes for 544 yards and three touchdowns, far eclipsing the combined production the team got out of the third receiver position last season (21 catches, 240 yards).
  • TE Brandon Pettigrew has 67 catches for 583 yards this season. He needs five more catches to break his own single-season mark. He needs three catches to become the first tight end in team history to catch 70 passes in multiple seasons. And, with another 17 yards, he will become the third Lions tight end ever produce 600 yards in multiple seasons (Jim Gibbons and David Hill were the others).
  • LS Don Muhlbach did not practice on Tuesday. He was banged up during a punt on Sunday. The nature of his injury was not revealed. C Dominic Raiola handled the long-snapping in practice.
  • DT Ndamukong Suh had two tackles and blocked field goal in his return. Said coach Jim Schwartz: \"About the same as always. He didn't show up great on the stat sheet, but he affected the game. He's a very consistent player when it comes to week-to-week.\" The Packers will know a few hours before Santa and his reindeer-pulled sleigh roll through town late Saturday night whether they received an early Christmas gift. After watching with disappointment Monday as the San Francisco 49ers clobbered the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay will be hoping the 49ers stumble on a short week when they play the upstart Seattle Seahawks on the road Saturday afternoon. A loss by the 49ers (11-3), who are two games behind the 13-1 Packers in the NFC race with two weeks left, would give Green Bay the No. 1 seed in the conference playoffs. Conversely, a win by San Francisco would put the onus back on the Packers to clinch home-field advantage on their own when they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, the only NFL game being played on Christmas. The latter scenario of having to beat the Bears to take away any suspense for the final week of the regular season just might be what Green Bay needs. The Packers are recovering from a loss for the first time in a calendar year after the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 19-14 shocker Sunday. Head coach Mike McCarthy, who was gung-ho on extending Green Bay's stirring 19-game winning streak, doesn't buy into the notion a loss can jar a previously invincible team to flip on the switch and refocus. Yet, McCarthy isn't concerned about how his shaken and injury-ravaged squad will respond this week. \"I feel very good about our football team,\" he said. \"We're 13-1. Our team clearly understands the roller-coaster ride that everybody likes to take you on. We knew the ride would just go that way. So, it's important to stay in touch with reality. \"We had a chance to look at the video (of Sunday's game). There's some things we didn't do very well that we need to do better, and that's what we're focused on. I'm not going to react to one game.\" No matter what comes of Saturday's game for the 49ers, the Packers' focus is squarely on making Christmas miserable for the reeling Bears. \"My confidence hasn't wavered,\" McCarthy said. \"We've got our next two games at home. We feel very good about the opportunity to clinch home-field advantage, and that's really what our focus is on. We're putting our focus tighter on improving as a team, and there's things that we need to get better at.\" The problems with the Packers' offensive line aren't expected to be solved anytime soon. As the team started to pick up the pieces Monday following its shocking first loss in 2011, coach Mike McCarthy was the bearer of more glum news about his beleaguered line. Team doctor Pat McKenzie diagnosed the left knee injury that knocked right tackle Bryan Bulaga out of the 19-14 setback at Kansas City on Sunday as a sprain of the kneecap. \"He'll be challenged to play this week,\" said McCarthy, looking ahead to a game against the rival Chicago Bears on Christmas night. McCarthy went so far as to say the coaches are of the mind-set that the Packers (13-1) will go into Sunday's contest with the patchwork line they had at the end of the last contest. That would mean starting left guard T.J. Lang over at right tackle, where he moved after Green Bay lost Bulaga and then rookie replacement Derek Sherrod to a broken right leg early in the fourth quarter. Evan Dietrich-Smith finished the game at left guard after starting the previous two games at right guard for Josh Sitton, who returned to action from a knee sprain. \"It's next guy up,\" McCarthy said. \"That's something that every football team goes through. We've had extensive experience (coping with injuries) over the last year, so we're in a little bit of that mode right now. The personnel staff is looking at the options, so we potentially may add somebody (to the line group) by Wednesday.\" Sherrod, the team's first-round draft pick this year, is headed to injured reserve. He underwent successful surgery Sunday night in Kansas City after being leg-whipped by Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali while blocking on a pass play. The team is hopeful of having Sherrod return to Green Bay by the end of the week. Meanwhile, McCarthy is keeping his fingers crossed veteran left tackle Chad Clifton finally will be able to practice this week. Clifton has been sidelined since suffering a torn hamstring in the Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta and then injuring his back amid his rehab a few weeks ago. \"The plan for Chad Clifton is ...,\" said McCarthy, as he tapped on his podium, \"we want him to go through individual drills Wednesday. That's the goal. We feel he's reached that point. We'll see what Wednesday brings us.\" Second-year player Marshall Newhouse has been the starting replacement for Clifton, and he had another rough performance Sunday going against Hali. The Chiefs' talented pass rusher produced three sacks and forced a fumble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers that Green Bay recovered. Rodgers was sacked four times in the game and took several hits for the third straight game.
  • WR Greg Jennings, the team leader in pass receptions, remains out indefinitely because of a left knee sprain. He missed his first game Sunday and probably won't be ready until the start of the playoffs.
  • RB James Starks, the team's top rusher, figures to have his workload increased in practice this week with an eye on possibly playing Sunday. Starks has missed the last two games because of an aggravated ankle injury. He returned to practice on a limited basis Friday.
  • DE Ryan Pickett is expected to get back on the field at some point this week and possibly play Sunday night. The veteran starter didn't play against the Chiefs after suffering a concussion in the previous game.
  • RB Brandon Saine also missed Sunday's game because of a concussion. Early indication is the rookie backup should be able to return to practice this week.
  • QB Aaron Rodgers will be looking to bounce back in the prime-time holiday game against the rival Bears after having his worst passing performance of the season at Kansas City. Rodgers had a passer rating of just 80.5 as he completed only 17 of 35 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown -- his first game with fewer than two TD passes. Rodgers continues to lead the league with a club-record 40 touchdown throws and a passer rating of 120.1.
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