With the margin for error now gone after the 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys need to win the last three games of the season. If they could do that, they would make the playoffs as the representative of the NFC East, no matter what anyone else does.
The next game is a home contest against the Green Bay Packers. It was thought that Aaron Rodgers, who fractured his collarbone, might be able to return against the Cowboys, making winning that game a lot harder than it would against Matt Flynn who has not been impressive in relief. But the latest reports are that things have not progressed well for Rodgers and his return this week is looking less and less likely.
Last week, Rodgers went through individual drills but said he knew shortly after Wednesday's practice that he would be unlikely to play against the Falcons. Rodgers said he was able to throw the ball without any discomfort, but things changed when he had to move around during full-speed drill work. Tasks such as taking a snap and handing off with his left arm, which is the side of the collarbone that was fractured, were painful.
"I shouldn't be having pain doing some of the simple movements," Rodgers said.
He has not been ruled out and it is possible that he could undergo and pass another MRI if he feels better in practice this week. However, this is a high-risk injury, in that going with it less that fully healed could lead to re-injuring it, and when that happens you risk longer-term issues. Rodgers is a high value player, obviously, and Green Bay faces a similar situation to the one Dallas faced with Tony Romo in 2010. Romo had a very similar injury and with the team no longer in the playoff picture the Cowboys decided to not bring him back, giving him the entire offseason to recuperate.
Green Bay is not eliminated from the playoffs yet but they would have to catch and pass both the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears. They have already split the season series with the Lions, and have to play da Bears in Chicago the last Sunday of the season. It may be tempting to make a last minute run, but the comments out of Green Bay sound cautious.
McCarthy: "We're planning to play the game with Matt (Flynn). That's the way you have to go about it." Rodgers "has hurdles to get over."— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) December 9, 2013
Even if Rodgers is cleared, the struggle he has had coming back might be a mental issue. He could play cautious, which usually is not winning football.
Of course, the Cowboys do have an unfortunate habit of making backup quarterbacks look awesome and Matt Flynn did have the spectacular game where he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns, which allowed him to cash in to the tune of a contract with $9 million guaranteed. But he has done absolutely nothing since then, except a one point win over a struggling Atlanta Falcons team. It seems certain that Dallas would treat having Flynn play instead of Rodgers as good news. What they do with it is another matter.