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Packers may be better equipped this year if Nelson can’t go

By Genaro C. Armas Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers offense appears to be in better shape than last season to be successful without Jordy Nelson.

They struggled to hit big plays when Nelson missed the 2015 season with a knee injury.

Now, Nelson’s status is in question again for Green Bay’s divisional-ound playoff game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, this time because of injured ribs. But the win over the New York Giants in the wild-card game last week showed that they can withstand the potential loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver.

Nelson, who had an NFL-best 14 touchdown catches in the regular season, left with about 11 minutes left in the second quarter with the Packers trailing 3-0 to New York.

Green Bay ended up winning 38-13, an impressive output against a Giants defense that had been playing well going into the playoffs.

“Compared to a year ago a lot of things are different,” coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. “Obviously our production is a lot higher than where we were a year ago. The development of a number of our younger players is higher than a year ago. I would say we’re definitely better prepared than we were a year ago.”

As expected, Nelson missed practice to focus on rehab, a plan to continue on Thursday. McCarthy has said that Nelson might have a chance to play against the Cowboys if the receiver can take part in the team’s final practice on Saturday.

“It would be very tough,” receiver Geronimo Allison said Wednesday night when asked what it might feel like to play with broken ribs. “Those ribs down there where you’re breathing at, it would be tough, especially if you take a shot in there again.”

Allison, an undrafted rookie free agent, might be one of those backups asked to step up, just as he did when Randall Cobb missed the final two games of the regular season with an ankle injury.

Allison, who had eight catches for 157 yards and a score while Cobb was out, has added depth to the receiving corps. Davante Adams has emerged as a go-to option after catching 12 touchdown passes in a breakout regular season.

Cobb provides energy and postseason experience. The Packers can also create matchup problems with athletic tight end Jared Cook , and receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery out of the backfield.

“We’re a different offense, though,” Rodgers said. “We’re doing a lot of different things than we were last year, a lot of things better. I think our offensive line is playing better. Our scheme has advanced, and we’re getting more contributions from the tight end at this point.

“Davante is a legit receiver in this league, and obviously Randall Cobb, who is established as well.”

Cobb, who said he was still playing through pain, was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. Another receiver, Jeff Janis, missed practice with a quadriceps injury.

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