By: Will Burchfield
If the Lions are going to make an improbable run to the playoffs, they'll have to go through Aaron Rodgers.
The two-time MVP announced on Tuesday night via Instagram that he has been medically cleared to return from a broken right collarbone. He has been sidelined since Week 6.
"It's been a long road from that day to this, but I'm happy to say I've been medically cleared to return," Rodgers wrote. "Thanks for all the love, support, prayers, and well wishes over the past 8 weeks ❤️ and a big thank you to (team physician) Dr. (Pat) McKenzie and our incredible training staff."
Rodgers is eligible to return for the Packers' game on Sunday at the Panthers. He will start, per Ian Rapoport.
Like the Lions, the Packers are 7-6 and vying for the second NFC wild card, with an outside shot at the NFC North. Detroit hosts Green Bay in the final game of the season on New Year's Eve. Like last year's finale at Ford Field, there could be major playoff implications on the table.
Between visiting the Panthers and the Lions, the Packers host the Vikings. The Lions' next two games are versus the Bears and at the Bengals.
Rodgers returned to practice on Dec. 2. By all accounts, he hasn't missed a beat. Clay Matthews went so far as to joke the Packers shouldn't have placed him on injured reserve in the first place.
"Watching him in practice and what he's been able to do these past couple weeks, getting more and more reps in practice and throwing on the pads, I think it's a good sign," Matthews said on Sunday, via ESPN. "I'm not going to speak on his behalf, but we sure hope he's ready and if he is, we're going to expect the Aaron of old."
Before going down, Rodgers was off to one of the best starts of his career. He led the league in touchdown passes (13) and had guided the Packers to a 4-1 record through five weeks. The Packers have scuffled in his absence, but they're still alive. And now they're about to get a major shot in the arm.
Matthew Stafford said on Wednesday he's rooting for Rodgers to return.
"You just want guys to be healthy, man. I hope he's healthy, and when he is I hope he's back out there playing," said Stafford. "He's good for our league and fun to watch."
Rodgers is 6-1 with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in his career at Ford Field.
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