Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hoped to return from the bye week without the brace that has protected his left knee since the second half of the opening game.Instead John Sullivan Jersey
, Rodgers was the only player not on the field on Tuesday for the team's first practice of the week.While his teammates began preparing for Sunday's matchup at the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, Rodgers continued to rehab the injury. That's how he's started every practice week since sustaining the injury during the second quarter against Chicago on Sept. 9."It's too early to tell," Rodgers said of playing without the brace. "I'd love to, but it's too early to tell at this point."Rodgers has played well, despite the injury and reduced practice time. He enters this week's games ranked 10th in the NFL with a passer rating of 100.1. His 6.5 yards per carry is better than his career-high mark of 6.3 in 2014.Still, he would like to be fully healthy as the Packers start a critical stretch to the season."If I'm completely healed, I don't need to wear a brace. Feel more comfortable without it, obviously," Rodgers said. "Having dealt with a knee injury for much of my football life, obviously you're more protected. You see some guys who do wear it all the time without having issues, but I just feel more comfortable without having it on. So, if it's not on, that means I'm feeling great and, if it is, that means I'm not quite all the way back."Rodgers said he did not have another MRI during the bye to determine how much the knee has healed. Regardless, the break came at a good time for the team and for Rodgers, who has been dealing with other minor injuries. He's been sacked 19 times."It was a great week, nice and relaxing with everything we're dealing with," he said. "The knee is an issue but we have other bumps and bruises that aren't on the injury report because they're not significant enough. It helps, the week, healing those things up."The Packers will need Rodgers at his best as he takes on the Rams. With Los Angeles ranking third in the NFL with 33.6 points per game, Rodgers knows he might have to win a shootout.Doing so, however, will be difficult against a defense that ranks fourth with 18.3 points allowed per game. Behind Aaron Donald's four sacks, the Rams had seven sacks in a rout of the 49ers last week."You have that chip on your shoulder," receiver Davante Adams said. "Obviously, we understand why we would be underdogs based on the record and the play style and the way they've been playing."They've been playing some great ball in all three phases, really. So, I saw something where this is like the biggest underdog he's ever been point-wise. So, that kind of stuff fires guys like No. 12 up and I know it fires me up."The challenge won't get any easier in succeeding weeks. Next Cory Littleton Jersey
, it's a trip to New England to face the Patriots. After a home game against Miami, it's back-to-back road games at Seattle and Minnesota. Those five teams are a combined 23-10-1.For Green Bay (3-2-1), this could be a make-or-break stretch to its season."We're going to have to play a lot better than we have to win those games," Rodgers said. "This is an important stretch in our season. I'm not going to say it's going to define our season, but it's definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks on where we're at in the race and what we're playing for." The Bears defense has been very good all season. And the Rams have their share of playmakers and stars on that side of the ball.But while the temptation is to make Chicago’s 15-6 win a testament to great defense, it was perhaps more of a situation of two quarterbacks playing poorly.Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky played less poorly. He threw for 110 yards and had three interceptions, and was clearly the better of the two.Rams counterpart Jared Goff was, to be blunt, a real mess. He finished 20-of-44 for 180 yards and four interceptions, for a 19.1 passer rating. The turnovers were bad, but the 4.1 yards per pass attempt might have been as egregious a number. Beyond the stats, however, Goff looked uncomfortable throughout the night, whether the culprit was his own teammates stepping on his feet, getting subtly whacked in the head as he threw, or the cold weather.Or, you know, the Bears defense.From the safety which opened the second half to the fourth quarter/fourth down sack by Akiem Hicks, the Bears were able to keep Goff in the pocket and under duress, and it was not a good thing for the Rams. When he’s not moving and in some kind of rhythm, he can look extremely average, if that.There might not many defenses that can make the Rams look so out of sorts, but the Bears have one, and it was good enough to overcome a subpar night from their own quarterback.Here are five more things we learned during1. No one was happier with the Bears Sunday night than the Saints. And the Saints were pretty happy to begin with, after clinching the NFC South title earlier in the day.With the loss dropping the Rams to 11-2, the Saints (11-2 with the head-to-head tiebreaker) once again have the inside track toward home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.And that’s incredibly important, considering what a difference location makes for the Saints in the postseason.Since Sean Payton took over in 2006, the Saints are 5-0 in the postseason in the Superdome. They’re 1-5 in another team’s building (and 1-0 at neutral sites, as in their Super Bowl win).While the Rams will certainly be glad to get in out of the cold, they don’t necessarily want to go indoors in New Orleans in January Nickell Robey-Coleman Jersey
, after losing 45-35 there in November.2. The Bears (9-4) deserved bonus points for their third-quarter touchdown, simply for their extensive use of big men.The touchdown pass to spare tackle Bradley Sowell was slick, after he reported eligible and slipped out into the flat on the goal-line play.It was the fake to defensive tackle Akiem Hicks that helped sell it and get Sowell so open, as the Rams were line up in a jumbo personnel package and usually when people do that they run power plays.But the Bears decided to have fun instead. Football can be fun, even without 100 points on the scoreboard. Especially with fat guy touchdowns, and the ensuing fat guy dances. Football is better when fat guys do big fat things.3. On the other hand, sometimes bright young coaches can overcomplicate the game.The Bears defense is quite good, that’s a given. But Rams running back Todd Gurley had just eight touches in the first three quarters (six carries, two receptions).Gurley entered the game with 1,649 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, and he’s their best offensive skill player. So maybe, you know, giving it to him more would have helped.Sean McVay is very smart, and knows more about drawing up offense than most people employed in the league (and certainly more than me). But he didn’t get the ball to his best player. It doesn’t have to be that hard.4. The Rams dodged a bullet when center John Sullivan was evaluated for a concussion in the first half, but was cleared and returned.Because they’re keeping extras elsewhere, the Rams have just seven offensive linemen on the roster.Rookie Brian Allen, their fourth-round pick, is the interior line backup, and he came in for a bit before Sullivan made it back. Fellow rookie Joseph Noteboom, their third-rounder, is the backup tackle, and he had to come in during the fourth quarter when left guard Rodger Saffold went down.It’s a good line, but that lack of depth could end up biting them at some point. And it’s the kind of risk you take when you swing for the fences by trading for expensive veterans and sign big-ticket free agents.5. The Bears lost a chance to catch the Rams off guard, when they caught an official off guard.After initially lining up for a punt, the Bears tried to run their offense back on the field, but tackle Bobby Massie knocked line judge Carl Johnson down to the ground. Officials stopped the game since he wasn’t in a position to call the play.That didn’t satisfy Bears coach Matt Nagy, since the Rams had a chance to adjust personnel. They ended up punting anyway.