Preview: Injuries haven't held back the Pack

The Packers have fought through a rash of injuries at numerous positions, but they haven't let that stop them from capturing the division title. We look at the injuries and the depth that has helped them thrive despite adversity.

The Vikings have won their last three games and for the first time since late October they have controlled their own playoff destiny. The last time the Vikings lost was Dec. 2 at Green Bay, and as they try to lock down their first playoff berth in three years, the only thing standing between them and a trip to the playoffs is the Packers.

A month into the 2012 season, it appeared as though the Packers' defense of their NFC North title was going down the drain in a hurry. Green Bay had lost three of its first five games and appeared to be on the ropes heading into Houston to face the undefeated Texans. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Packers' funeral – they crushed the Texans 42-24 after Aaron Rodgers through six touchdown passes.

That win changed Green Bay's season completely. Since then, the Packers have won 10 of 11 games and have clinched their third straight playoff berth and second consecutive division title. Rodgers is the NFL's top-rated passer (106.2) and is second in the league in touchdown passes with 35. The Packers have needed Rodgers to have a big season because, given the injuries the team has suffered, it's amazing that they have been able to go on such a roll.

The running game has been a mix-and-match mess for the Packers all season. Cedric Benson started the year as the featured back, but went down in Week 5 with a season-ending foot injury. He was replaced by second-year back Alex Green, but he has missed two games with injuries as well. Former starter James Starks then took over, but lasted just three games as the starter before he went down. He hasn't played since the first meeting with the Vikings and has been ruled out for Sunday. Desperate for depth at the position, the Packers signed DuJuan Harris off the practice squad and signed former Packers featured back Ryan Grant off the street. As a team, the Packers have run for 1,630 yards (20th in the league) but don't have a player with 500 rushing yards all season. They've made do with what they've had, but it has been far from impressive.

The receiver corps has been just as stricken by the injury bug. Leading receiver Greg Jennings missed eight games due to injury and hasn't had more than 50 yards in a game all season. Jordy Nelson has missed four games, including the last three, but is expected to return Sunday against the Vikings. Donald Driver has missed two games and Randall Cobb is questionable for Sunday. Fortunately for the Packers, unlike the running back position, the Packers have no shortage of quality receivers. If the Packers ever have their top five receivers together at the same time, their passing offense can be lethal.

The Packers have also survived issues along the offensive line. Only two O-linemen (left tackle Marshall Newhouse and right guard Josh Sitton) have started all 15 games. The Packers have two different starters at left guard and center and three at right tackle, resulting from the season-ending injury to former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga. Last week, the Packers opted to pull veteran Jeff Saturday from his starting role, replacing him with backup center/guard Evan Dietrich Smith. Once again, the Packers have been forced to make it work and change on the fly, but have somehow survived.

They have managed to post the 10th best overall defense despite suffering significant injuries on the defensive side of the ball, too, after having the NFC's worst-ranked defense in the league last year. Defensive linemen C.J. Wilson has missed five games, B.J. Raji has missed two and first-round rookie Jerel Worthy has missed two games.

Hardest hit has been the linebackers in the Packers' 3-4 defense. Starter Desmond Bishop was placed on injured reserve in the preseason, starter Nick Perry was lost for the year after six games, the same week fellow starter D.J. Smith was put on season-ending injured reserve. Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews missed four games in November and December, but he is back in action.

It was hoped that safety Charles Woodson, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, would be back in action this week. He has missed the last eight games with a broken collarbone, but was ruled out earlier in the week.

The Packers have survived a series of injuries that would have debilitated most teams, but somehow they have not only survived the injuries, they have thrived, posting the NFL's best record over the last 10 games. With so much at stake for both teams – a playoff berth for the Vikings and a first-round bye for the Packers – Sunday's game will be a test of wills that, if the Vikings win, could result in both teams meeting for a third time in Green Bay in the wild card round of the playoffs.

The Vikings have had a surprising season in which they went from the bottom of the division to controlling their own destiny for a playoff spot, but, given their recent success over Minnesota, the Packers may be the last team they want to face. Left for dead a month into the 2012 season, there is nobody playing better right now than the Packers and, despite injuries and a shuffling of the roster, they are playing like a team capable of winning its second Super Bowl in three years.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" The Vikings have won their last three games and for the first time since late October they have controlled their own playoff destiny. The last time the Vikings lost was Dec. 2 at Green Bay, and as they try to lock down their first playoff berth in three years, the only thing standing between them and a trip to the playoffs is the Packers. A month into the 2012 season, it appeared as though the Packers' defense of their NFC North title was going down the drain in a hurry. Green Bay had lost three of its first five games and appeared to be on the ropes heading into Houston to face the undefeated Texans. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Packers' funeral – they crushed the Texans 42-24 after Aaron Rodgers through six touchdown passes. That win changed Green Bay's season completely. Since then, the Packers have won 10 of 11 games and have clinched their third straight playoff berth and second consecutive division title. Rodgers is the NFL's top-rated passer (106.2) and is second in the league in touchdown passes with 35. The Packers have needed Rodgers to have a big season because, given the injuries the team has suffered, it's amazing that they have been able to go on such a roll. The running game has been a mix-and-match mess for the Packers all season. Cedric Benson started the year as the featured back, but went down in Week 5 with a season-ending foot injury. He was replaced by second-year back Alex Green, but he has missed two games with injuries as well. Former starter James Starks then took over, but lasted just three games as the starter before he went down. He hasn't played since the first meeting with the Vikings and has been ruled out for Sunday. Desperate for depth at the position, the Packers signed DuJuan Harris off the practice squad and signed former Packers featured back Ryan Grant off the street. As a team, the Packers have run for 1,630 yards (20th in the league) but don't have a player with 500 rushing yards all season. They've made do with what they've had, but it has been far from impressive. The receiver corps has been just as stricken by the injury bug. Leading receiver Greg Jennings missed eight games due to injury and hasn't had more than 50 yards in a game all season. Jordy Nelson has missed four games, including the last three, but is expected to return Sunday against the Vikings. Donald Driver has missed two games and Randall Cobb is questionable for Sunday. Fortunately for the Packers, unlike the running back position, the Packers have no shortage of quality receivers. If the Packers ever have their top five receivers together at the same time, their passing offense can be lethal. The Packers have also survived issues along the offensive line. Only two O-linemen (left tackle Marshall Newhouse and right guard Josh Sitton) have started all 15 games. The Packers have two different starters at left guard and center and three at right tackle, resulting from the season-ending injury to former first-round pick Bryan Bulaga. Last week, the Packers opted to pull veteran Jeff Saturday from his starting role, replacing him with backup center/guard Evan Dietrich Smith. Once again, the Packers have been forced to make it work and change on the fly, but have somehow survived. They have managed to post the 10th best overall defense despite suffering significant injuries on the defensive side of the ball, too, after having the NFC's worst-ranked defense in the league last year. Defensive linemen C.J. Wilson has missed five games, B.J. Raji has missed two and first-round rookie Jerel Worthy has missed two games. Hardest hit has been the linebackers in the Packers' 3-4 defense. Starter Desmond Bishop was placed on injured reserve in the preseason, starter Nick Perry was lost for the year after six games, the same week fellow starter D.J. Smith was put on season-ending injured reserve. Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews missed four games in November and December, but he is back in action. It was hoped that safety Charles Woodson, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, would be back in action this week. He has missed the last eight games with a broken collarbone, but was ruled out earlier in the week. The Packers have survived a series of injuries that would have debilitated most teams, but somehow they have not only survived the injuries, they have thrived, posting the NFL's best record over the last 10 games. With so much at stake for both teams – a playoff berth for the Vikings and a first-round bye for the Packers – Sunday's game will be a test of wills that, if the Vikings win, could result in both teams meeting for a third time in Green Bay in the wild card round of the playoffs. The Vikings have had a surprising season in which they went from the bottom of the division to controlling their own destiny for a playoff spot, but, given their recent success over Minnesota, the Packers may be the last team they want to face. Left for dead a month into the 2012 season, there is nobody playing better right now than the Packers and, despite injuries and a shuffling of the roster, they are playing like a team capable of winning its second Super Bowl in three years. 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