CHARLOTTE — The Packers will have their full complement of outside linebackers for today’s game against the Panthers in Charlotte, but that’s not the case at cornerback.
Mike Neal was listed as questionable on the injury report with a hip injury, but he is active. Nick Perry, who has been battling a shoulder injury, also is active. The only outside linebacker inactive is Andy Mulumba, who is not on the injury report.
The Packers had their 42-game regular-season streak with at least one sack snapped last week, so they’ll be looking for their outside pass rushers to get back on track. The group is led by Julius Peppers and his 5 1/2 sacks, but Neal, Perry and Jayrone Elliott also have multiple sacks each this season. Clay Matthews rushes from the outside at times as well, though that depends on the game plan and how much he’s needed inside.
At cornerback it’s a different story, however. Both Sam Shields (shoulder) and Quinten Rollins (neck) are out, so rookie Damarious Randall will start in Shields’ place, and fellow rookie LaDarius Gunter is active as a fourth corner for the dime package. Casey Hayward will start and Micah Hyde will likely remain in his nickel/slot role.
Gunter could get the first extensive action of his career. He has been active for only three of the first seven games so far this season, and he has played only eight snaps on defense, with the rest of his work coming on special teams. An undrafted rookie from Miami, Gunter was impressive in training camp and the preseason and earned a roster spot as a third rookie corner, behind draft picks Randall and Rollins.
Twice as nice: Prior to today, only twice previously in NFL history has a team faced back-to-back unbeaten opponents with at least six wins apiece. It’s happening twice today alone, with the Packers facing the Panthers right after losing to the Broncos, and the Colts now facing the Broncos one week after losing to the Panthers.
NFC playoff picture: After today’s game, both the Packers and Panthers will be at the midway point of their seasons. They are currently the only teams in the NFC with fewer than two losses.
If the Panthers win, they would take a two-game lead on the rest of the conference with eight to play. If the Packers win, no NFC teams will be unbeaten, and the only undefeated clubs in the NFL would reside in the AFC.
For more on how the playoff picture looks amongst the top contenders in the NFC, check out this week’s “One Last Look.”
In the NFC North: The Packers’ closest pursuer in the division has a big game today as well, as Minnesota hosts St. Louis in another battle of two NFC teams with records above .500. The Vikings and Rams will be playing at the same time as the Packers and Panthers.
With Green Bay holding a one-game lead over Minnesota, it’s possible the day could end with a tie atop the division, if the Packers lose and the Vikings win. If the reverse happens, the Packers would restore their two-game lead.
New sod: The Panthers played a rain-soaked game here just six days ago on Monday night against Indianapolis. As a result of the damage to the field, the middle portion between the hashmarks was re-sodded for today’s game. This is also Carolina’s third straight home game.
TV map: Here is the FOX TV map for the noon CT kickoff, courtesy of 506sports.com.
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