Long-time Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who made a strong case for NFL comeback player of the year this season, suffered a rib injury in Sunday’s wild card matchup against the New York Giants, which the Packers won 38-13.
Nelson, who spent Sunday night in the hospital, suffered at least two broken ribs, as per NFL reporter Ian Rapoport. Nelson took a hit to the side Sunday from Giants safety Leon Hall. Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira said during the game’s telecast that Hall’s hit was illegal because the safety led with the crown of his head. No word yet on a fine for Hall.
“We hate seeing one of our guys going down, but we’ve got to continue to play,” wide receiver Randall Cobb said in his postgame press conference.
Cobb, who was out the previous two weeks with an ankle injury, returned Sunday to make five receptions for 116 and three touchdowns, one of which was the 42-yard Hail Mary catch from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The pairing of Rodgers to Nelson has been a consistent threat to opposing offense’s this season. While Nelson started the season seemingly slow, midway through the season, after returning from a season-ending ACL injury in 2015, he was able to make the slightly deeper routes and quick throws from Rodgers. Nelson finished the regular season with 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and a NFL-leading 14 touchdowns.
Against the Giants this Sunday, he had only one catch for 13 yards.
With the Packers as the four-point underdogs heading to Dallas this weekend to play the #1-seeded Dallas Cowboys, Nelson’s injury could hinder the Packers otherwise hot offense. Dallas ranks fifth in defense, allowing on average 19.1 points a game.
Being without their number one receiver is an added challenge for Green Bay, but that’s not to say it is an unattainable one, particularly with the return of Randall Cobb.
Against the Giants, Rodgers and company started slow, but a Hail Mary pass from Rodgers to Cobb to the end the half turned the momentum in favor of the Packers.
Rodgers spoke after the game of the status of Nelson and his receivers, saying, “It’d be a huge loss for us obviously, but Geronimo [Allison] has been playing a lot for us and playing effectively. Randall being back healthy—I said it this week in our press conference; we’re better with 18 on the field.”
Against the Giants, Allison only had one catch for eight yards. Through the season, he had 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Rodgers stressed in his postgame press conference that if Nelson is out on Saturday, “Geronimo is going to have to step up and play extended time.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy did not confirm in his Monday press conference if Nelson would be out this Sunday in Dallas.
He said, “He’s [Nelson] going to be in the rehab group through Friday then Saturday if he can practice, then he may have a chance.”
McCarthy went on to say, “If he doesn’t practice Saturday, he won’t be in the game.”
While rib injuries generally take four to six weeks to heal, there have been many occurrences of players playing with broken or cracked ribs, including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady playing several weeks with three cracked ribs in the 2009-10 season.
The Packers will be expected to practice this week as if Nelson will not play in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. His potential absence will be noticed on Rodgers’ deep routes, but this also comes from the quarterback who finished Sunday’s game 25 of 40 for 362 yards, four touchdowns and a 125.2 passing rating—all while suffering a slow start by the Packers offense.
With an offensive line that has been giving Rodgers plenty of time to make plays, the return of Randall Cobb and the ability for Rodgers to find open targets in younger receivers such as Adams, Allison or even Jeff Janis, who excelled at special teams on Sunday, Nelson will be missed, but will not break the Packers chances of continuing in the playoffs.