Ahead of Sunday’s pivotal showdown at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the status of star Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains in question.
Rodgers practiced with the second team offense on Wednesday, but he’s yet to be cleared by the Packers medical staff, according to the team’s official site. Rodgers went down in the first quarter of the Week Nine loss to Chicago, and the Packers lost four of their next five and tied the Minnesota Vikings.
Apparently still healing his broken collarbone, Rodgers is listed as a limited participant in practice and for now it appears the Packers (7-6-1) may start Matt Flynn for the fourth straight game. The same report indicated that head coach Mike McCarthy would likely make his final decision on who to start after Friday’s session.
The Packers have won their last two games with Flynn under center, and if they can extend that streak to four, they’ll likely make a return to the postseason as the NFC North champ for the third straight year.
In his first two starts, Flynn looked like he was still finding his legs in the pocket, barely completing 50 percent of his passes, but in the last two he’s completed 70 percent of his passes for five touchdowns to two interceptions.
Pittsburgh’s eighth-ranked secondary does pose a threat, but they’ve only recorded eight interceptions this season, and Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy should get plenty of touches against the Steelers 19th ranked rush defense.
Flynn looked especially sharp against Dallas, going 26-for-39 for 299 yards and four touchdowns, while leading the team back from a 23-point halftime deficit with five straight touchdown drives. It was also the first time since 2011 that Flynn’s passer rating exceeded 100.
Flynn has also developed chemistry with fourth-year tight end Andrew Quarless, who he’s targeted 14 times for 12 receptions, 132 yards, and two touchdowns in the last two games.
McCarthy could be worried about disrupting the team’s newfound flow under Flynn, and might also be wary of Rodgers suffering another setback or an even worse injury considering how much the team has invested. The 30-year-old signed a five-year, $110 million extension with Green Bay back in April, with an NFL-record $62.5 million guaranteed.
The crux of McCarthy’s problem is very similar to the one faced by Chicago first-year head coach Marc Trestman, who decided to put quarterback Jay Cutler back in the starting line up in Week 15 despite back-up Josh McCown tossing 11 touchdowns to one pick in his five starts.
Cutler looked rusty in the first two quarters against Cleveland, throwing two interceptions, but eventually settled down to throw three touchdowns in the critical 38-31 victory.