The full extent of Aaron Rodgers' left shoulder injury is still unknown, but with him unable to return to Monday's game, at least next week is in question. In a best-case scenario, Rodgers would be able to play through the injury and start next week. If his collarbone is fractured like Zach Zaidman of WBBM Newsradio 780 reported on Monday, it could keep Rodgers out of the lineup for six weeks or more.
Without knowing the severity of the injury and Rodgers' timetable to return, here are three possible options for the Packers moving forward.
Let Rodgers play through it
The good news for the Packers is Rodgers injured his non-throwing shoulder. That doesn't mean he can play through any injury, but does give him a better opportunity to return quickly if the injury is minor enough. Rodgers injured his right shoulder in 2008 and still played the next week, according to Jason Wilde of ESPN. According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Tom Brady played through a separated AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder during the 2011 playoffs.
If Rodgers did indeed fracture his collarbone or suffer a serious injury, there is likely nothing he can do to play through it. A collarbone fracture would keep him at out least a month, with similar injuries costing quarterbacks six weeks. Troy Aikman fractured his left collarbone in 1998 and returned six weeks later.
The Packers dropped into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North with the loss, but fortunately do not have a difficult stretch of schedule coming up. Green Bay's next three opponents have a combined 7-18 record and just three of the final eight opponents are currently .500 or better. If Rodgers missed five weeks, he would be out for a key game against Detroit, but return for the final three games of the season including contests against 5-4 Dallas and 5-3 Chicago.
There is never a good time to lose your starting quarterback, but if Rodgers is out, this could be the best possible timing for Green Bay.
Start Seneca Wallace
If Rodgers is unable to play through the injury, the Packers could turn to Seneca Wallace to take over the starting duties. Wallace came on in relief on Monday and is currently the only other quarterback on the active roster. The 33-year-old Wallace has plenty of experience, but had not played in a regular season game since 2011 and was a late addition to Green Bay's roster following the preseason.
If Wallace is thrust into the starting position, the Packers will likely turn to the running game, just like they did on Monday. Eddie Lacy ran for 150 yards against the Bears and has proved to be a capable feature back. James Starks is also healthy and running well, giving Green Bay a potentially potent rushing attack. With additional practice reps, Wallace would likely perform better than he did on Monday night and a strong rushing attack would only help to ease him into the role. The Packers have been one of the best passing offenses in the NFL in recent years, but they may need to switch gears if they are going to remain in the playoff race until Rodgers returns.
Scott Tolzien is currently on Green Bay's practice squad and could be promoted to the active roster.
Sign a free agent
If the Packers turn to the free agent market for a starter or depth, they will have a number of familiar options. Graham Harrell, Vince Young and B.J. Coleman were with Green Bay during the preseason before being released. All three are currently free agents. Harrell spent three seasons with the Packers and should be very familiar with Mike McCarthy's system.
Green Bay could also turn to free agent Matt Flynn. Flynn was released by the Bills on Monday and spent four seasons as Rodgers' backup earlier in his career. Flynn started two games in Green Bay due to a Rodgers injury and played extremely well. He completed 68 percent of his passes in those starts and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He hasn't had much success since leaving Green Bay. Flynn signed with Seattle, but was beat out for the starting job by Russell Wilson. After a year of backing up Wilson, Flynn was traded to Oakland. He lost the starting job to Terrelle Pryor and struggled during his one start with the Raiders. He was released by Oakland and was on the free agent market before being picked up by the Bills. He didn't appear in a game for Buffalo, who instead turned to undrafted rookie free agent Jeff Tuel.
Rodgers is one of the most-irreplaceable players in the NFL, so no matter what the Packers do, it's going to pale in comparison to a healthy Rodgers. Green Bay, however, could be much worse off. Not only do they have a manageable schedule upcoming, but the running attack is vastly improved over last season. Green Bay averaged 106.4 rushing yards per game last season, but with Lacy leading the way, that number has improved to 148.6 rushing yards per game this season. The Packers may not be the Seahawks, 49ers or any of the other run-first teams, but the ground game is strong enough to survive ... even without Rodgers.