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NFL news: Aaron Rodgers throws, Michael Crabtree ready to return?

Aaron Rodgers practiced on a limited basis on Tuesday. Could he return this week?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers' chances to return this week were "slim to none." Green Bay Packers fans rooting for the slim side of the equation got some good news on Tuesday when Rodgers returned to practice.

Rodgers participated in individual drills and threw some short passes during the portion of practice open to the media, according to Mike Spofford of the Packers' official site. McCarthy said Rodgers has to practice if he is to play in a game, so a return to practice -- even on a limited basis -- is a positive step for the Green Bay quarterback. That doesn't mean he will play on Thursday against Detroit, however. The short week makes a return extremely difficult unless Rodgers is able to practice fully Wednesday.

Green Bay won't release a complete injury report until after practice Wednesday, so Rodgers' status will stay somewhat in the air until then. Whether or not he misses the game against Detroit, the fact he was able to return to practice bodes well for his chances to play next week against Atlanta. Even if doesn't play this week, Jason Hirschhorn of Packers blog Acme Packing Company called Rodgers' return to practice "fantastic news."

Jay Cutler could return for Week 14

Jay Cutler will miss a third straight game this week, but the Chicago Bears quarterback said he would be "disappointed" if he isn't able to return next week against the Dallas Cowboys. Cutler is recovering from a high ankle sprain he suffered three weeks ago against the Detroit Lions. He has also missed time this season due to a groin injury.

While Josh McCown has done a solid job filling in, the Bears' offense hasn't had the same success under the backup as Cutler. Chicago averages 29.3 points per game when Cutler is in the lineup and 23.6 PPG when he isn't. A healthy Cutler could make a significant difference down the stretch, especially with Chicago in a tight race for the NFC North crown. The Bears are also in the NFC wild card race, but Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. of Bears blog Windy City Gridiron said the division is the team's best path to the playoffs.

While over in the NFC, it looks as though one or more teams with winnings records will be on the outside looking in. The way the wildcard race is shaping up, the Chicago Bears will need to win their division to make the tourney.

Michael Crabtree expected to return this week

The San Francisco 49ers will get a boost this week with wide receiver Michael Crabtree expected to be activated from the physically unable to perform list. The 49ers play the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

The 26-year-old is working his way back after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during offseason workouts. While Crabtree may be rusty following six-month recovery, he should be able to help San Francisco. He turned in the best season of his career in 2012, finishing the year with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. He had a good rapport with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the two excelled during the 49ers' playoff run.

Although Crabtree will be activated this week, David Fucillo of 49ers blog Niners Nation said that doesn't necessarily mean he will play on Sunday:

That was followed by a question as to whether Crabtree would play against the Rams. Harbaugh responded with a little chuckle and said, "I anticipate that he's going to come back this week."

That was tweeted out by some in attendance as Crabtree will be back for the Rams game. The 49ers have to activate Crabtree today, but that does not guarantee anything against the Rams, other than being on the 53-man roster. I would hope Crabtree is ready to play, but I don't take Jim Harbaugh's comments as guaranteeing anything other than he will be activated today.

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