GREEN BAY, Wis. — If the Packers are going to win the NFC North title in Chicago on Sunday against the Bears, they’ll have to do it without wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
Nelson, Green Bay’s second-leading receiver this season, will miss his second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Nelson, who had a breakout 2011 with 1,263 receiving yards, also missed a game earlier in the season with hamstring and ankle injuries. He has 46 catches for 658 yards this season.
Fortunately for the Packers, outside linebacker Clay Matthews is probable after a hamstring injury kept him out the previous four games.
“He looked good all week,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Matthews. “I look for Clay to play and make an impact in the game.”
McCarthy added that Matthews’ snaps could “potentially” be limited.
“I think it’d be smart to watch his reps,” McCarthy said. “This is a very important game, but there’s more left to be played after this.”
Matthews’ nine sacks this season are still the most on the team by a significant margin, with outside linebackers Erik Walden and Dezman Moses tied for second with three each.
When the Packers and Bears met in Week 2 in Green Bay, Matthews sacked quarterback Jay Cutler 3.5 times.
Veteran defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone) was scheduled to return in time for this game, but he was ruled out earlier in the week despite returning to practice last week.
“It isn’t a matter of Charles not being mentally or conditioning-wise ready to play,” McCarthy said. “This is the doctor’s opinion of Charles. He (Dr. Pat McKenzie) doesn’t feel we’re quite there yet. I don’t think any of us would be doing our jobs if (Woodson) went out there this week and something happened.”
Running back James Starks will be out for the second straight week after injuring his knee on Dec. 2.
“James is making progress,” McCarthy said, adding that he’s not sure when Starks might return.
The Packers’ already banged-up offensive line may be without its best player after starting right guard Josh Sitton injured his hip in Thursday’s practice. Sitton is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
“It shouldn’t be a big deal,” Sitton said. “We’ll see. I should be good. It kind of sprung up yesterday.”
However, Green Bay should have starting offensive lineman T.J. Lang back after missing last weekend’s win over the Detroit Lions with an ankle injury. Lang is probable, as is starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse (wrist).
Starting defensive lineman C.J. Wilson (knee) is out, but defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder) is probable. Last weekend, the Packers didn’t have Wilson or Neal, giving the team only four healthy defensive linemen. That didn’t allow defensive coordinator Dom Capers to play any 3-4 defensive packages, opening up the run game for the typically run-averse Lions.
Veteran wide receiver Donald Driver (thumb) is questionable, and rookie safety Jerron McMillian (back) is probable.
The Bears will be without linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion). Also, Chicago coach Lovie Smith has listed defensive tackle Henry Melton (chest) and rookie defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) as doubtful.