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Free-falling Packers wait for Rodgers as Falcons loom

(SportsNetwork.com) - Will he or won't he?

For Green Bay, it all boils down to whether or not star quarterback Aaron Rodgers can get back in the lineup.

With Rodgers, the Packers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Without him they are 0-4-1 and the Grey Cup seems out of reach in Titletown.

Green Bay hasn't cleared Rodgers, who is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered against Chicago back on Nov. 4, for this Sunday's game against Atlanta but they also haven't ruled him out either.

The All-Pro was able to practice Wednesday on a limited basis and the issue isn't pain tolerance, it's whether or not his collarbone has had enough time to properly heal.

"I thought he looked good for what they asked him to do," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told assembled reporters. "He did everything seamlessly, individual drills. Basically, he did everything he was cleared to do medically. He was in rehab mode."

Rodgers also updated his progress.

"It's the strength, the range of motion and the evidence that we see on the scan. Two out of three are passed so far," he said. "I can't control the healing of my bone. That's frustrating. But I've been preparing as if I was going to play every week and trying to help Matt (Flynn) and Scott (Tolzien) out as much as I possibly can."

If the third scan isn't passed Flynn will get the start against the Falcons over Tolzien.

The Detroit Lions' 40-10 victory over the Pack on Thanksgiving Day was even more emphatic than the final score indicated. The total yardage differential in the contest of 435 yards was the most in any NFL game for the last eight years. In addition to posting seven sacks, a safety, an interception and two fumble recoveries, Detroit limited the Packers to just 126 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.

"I knew this organization isn't used to games like this," rookie running back Eddie Lacy understated. "The players aren't used to games like this."

Flynn, the third quarterback to start under center for Green Bay since Rodgers' injury, went just 10-for-20 for 139 yards with an interception and two lost fumbles against Detroit, while Lacy was held to just 16 yards on 10 carries.

"It's just tough when you can't get in a rhythm," Flynn said of his struggles under center. "We kept stalling out and when you're not making first downs it's just hard to get things going."

Green Bay is currently 1 1/2 games behind Detroit in the NFC North and an even more distant 2 1/2 south of San Francisco for the NFC's final wild-card spot with just four games to go. The 49ers also own the tiebreaker over the Packers thanks to their 34-28 Week 1 win.

"We're still in it," Rodgers said. "We need Detroit to lose two out of four, but the biggest part of that is us winning out. We've got to control what we can control."

The Falcons, meanwhile, are coming off just their third win of the season after Matt Bryant made a 36-yard field goal three minutes into overtime to lift Atlanta over Buffalo, 34-31, at Toronto's Rogers Centre.

Steven Jackson carried the ball 23 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns, while Matt Ryan was 28-for-47 for 311 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, who snapped a five-game slide and piled up 423 yards of offense, their best total in two months.

Receiver Roddy White, who has struggled with injures for most of the year, had his best game of the disappointing campaign with 10 receptions for 143 yards.

Buffalo began overtime with the ball, and the second play saw Scott Chandler catch a pass on a crossing pattern and go up the right side of the field. He had gained 22 yards when the ball was punched out by Falcons' safety William Moore, with Robert Alford recovering and eventually lateraling to Desmond Trufant, who took the ball to the Buffalo 42.

A 20-yard catch from Harry Douglas, was followed by runs of four and two yards from Jackson before Bryant drilled the ball through the uprights for the win.

"Today was a reminder that football is the ultimate team game," said Falcons coach Mike Smith. "We needed every man in that locker room to get the win."

The Packers lead their all-time series with Atlanta by a slim 13-12 margin. In the last encounter, Green Bay won 25-14 on Oct. 9, 2011 when Rodgers threw for 396 yards and two TDs as the Packers overcame a 14-0 deficit,

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

If you are selecting the most valuable individual to his particular team's success, the answer was plainly obvious on Thanksgiving Day as Rodgers was watching helplessly from the sidelines as his Packers were embarrassed by the Lions.

With A-Rod, McCarthy looks like an offensive genius and one of the best coaches of his generation. Without him, McCarthy is lost, ping-ponging from Seneca Wallace to Tolzien to Flynn.

With No. 12 in the Green and Gold, it doesn't matter if Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley are hurt, the Packers' system takes players like Jarrett Boykin and Myles White and makes them impactful. Without him, Jordy Nelson and James Jones have looked like No. 3 receivers.

With the former mustachioed one, Packers GM Ted Thompson is regarded as a genius around draft time while pointing to less-than-nimble tackles like David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay as "hits" in the selection process. Without him, Thompson's offensive line prodigies look like they are playing in sand against the NFL's lightning-quick edge rushers.

Rodgers' absence has only magnified just how important he is to the Packers on every level, and having him at the controls for so long has masked quite a few of deficiencies on the Pack over the past few years.

Even the Green Bay defense, which had been allowing 79 yards rushing a game with Rodgers rolling up leads or controlling the clock has collapsed and given up an average of 188.7 on the ground over the last four contests. And its best player, Clay Matthews, looks an awful lot like a one-trick pony without Rodgers taking all the pressure off of him and his mates.

Rodgers has thrown for at least 300 yards in all four career games against the Falcons, adding nine TDs and just one interception. Ryan, on the other hand, hasn't reached 200 yards in any of his four outings against the Pack with five touchdowns and an equal about of picks.

On the injury front for Atlanta, tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is only 79 yards short of becoming the only tight end -- and fifth overall -- to reach 15,000 career receiving yards is dealing with a painful toe and could be slowed this week.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This is as simple as it gets. If Rodgers plays, Green Bay wins rather easily and if he doesn't, the Packers might be better off running out the University of Wisconsin as Doppelgangers.

The guess here is Rodgers gives it a go, making things much murkier for both Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North moving forward.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 27, Falcons 17

12/06 09:24:13 ET

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Standings

 2013 American Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-New England 12 4 0 .750 444 338 8-0 4-4 4-2 9-3
NY Jets 8 8 0 .500 290 387 6-2 2-6 3-3 5-7
Miami 8 8 0 .500 317 335 4-4 4-4 2-4 7-5
Buffalo 6 10 0 .375 339 388 4-4 2-6 3-3 5-7
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Cincinnati 11 5 0 .688 430 305 8-0 3-5 3-3 8-4
Pittsburgh 8 8 0 .500 379 370 5-3 3-5 4-2 6-6
Baltimore 8 8 0 .500 320 352 6-2 2-6 3-3 6-6
Cleveland 4 12 0 .250 308 406 3-5 1-7 2-4 3-9
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Indianapolis 11 5 0 .688 391 336 6-2 5-3 6-0 9-3
Tennessee 7 9 0 .438 362 381 3-5 4-4 2-4 6-6
Jacksonville 4 12 0 .250 247 449 1-7 3-5 3-3 4-8
Houston 2 14 0 .125 276 428 1-7 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Denver 13 3 0 .813 606 399 7-1 6-2 5-1 9-3
x-Kansas City 11 5 0 .688 430 305 5-3 6-2 2-4 7-5
x-San Diego 9 7 0 .563 396 348 5-3 4-4 4-2 6-6
Oakland 4 12 0 .250 322 453 3-5 1-7 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
 2013 National Football Conference Standings 
East Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Philadelphia 10 6 0 .625 442 382 4-4 6-2 4-2 9-3
Dallas 8 8 0 .500 439 432 5-3 3-5 5-1 7-5
NY Giants 7 9 0 .438 294 383 4-4 3-5 3-3 6-6
Washington 3 13 0 .188 334 478 2-6 1-7 0-6 1-11
 
North Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Green Bay 8 7 1 .531 417 428 4-3-1 4-4 3-2-1 6-5-1
Chicago 8 8 0 .500 445 478 5-3 3-5 2-4 4-8
Detroit 7 9 0 .438 395 376 4-4 3-5 4-2 6-6
Minnesota 5 10 1 .344 391 480 5-3 0-7-1 2-3-1 4-7-1
 
South Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Carolina 12 4 0 .750 366 241 7-1 5-3 5-1 9-3
x-New Orleans 11 5 0 .688 414 304 8-0 3-5 5-1 9-3
Atlanta 4 12 0 .250 353 443 3-5 1-7 1-5 3-9
Tampa Bay 4 12 0 .250 288 389 3-5 1-7 1-5 2-10
 
West Division W L T Pct. PF PA Home Away Div Conf
y-Seattle 13 3 0 .813 417 231 7-1 6-2 4-2 10-2
x-San Francisco 12 4 0 .750 406 272 6-2 6-2 5-1 9-3
Arizona 10 6 0 .625 379 324 6-2 4-4 2-4 6-6
St. Louis 7 9 0 .438 348 364 5-3 2-6 1-5 4-8
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
Final
WAS 3
STL 4
Final
CLE 0
TOR 5
Final
DET 5
ANA 2
Final
BOS 4
BAL 2
Final
KAN 5
MIN 4
Final
CHC 8
CIN 4
Final
OAK 4
HOU 3
Final
PIT 7
MIL 8
Final
NYM 5
ATL 7
Final
TAM 16
NYY 1
Final
MIA 7
SEA 0
Final
TEX 6
CWS 3
Final
LOS 8
ARI 6
Final
COL 3
PHI 1
Final
SDP 3
SFG 1
Final
TOR 87
BRK 94
Final
LAC 105
GSW 109
Final
IND 93
ATL 101
4th
OKC 74
MEM 69
 
Final
STL 4
CHI 3
Final
PIT 3
CLB 4
3rd
COL 3
MIN 1
 
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2