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Friday, December 9, 2011
BBAO: The James Starks dilemma

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Green Bay Packers will play at least four, and potentially six, consecutive games outdoors on grass fields in cold-weather locales. That means it's time to get their running game in order. But just as they hit that stretch, the Packers are trying to figure out the best way to handle a series of injuries to lead runner James Starks.

As Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out, Starks has been forced out of three consecutive games because of knee and ankle injuries. He hasn't practiced all week and it might make some sense to hold him out of Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders to allow for additional healing time.

The Packers have a strong fallback in veteran Ryan Grant, and rookie Brandon Saine has been seeing repetitions in recent weeks. But we all know how much of an impact Starks made on the Packers' run to the Super Bowl last season. For what it's worth, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said that it might help to hold out Starks "from a freshness standpoint" but not a "football development standpoint" down the stretch.

The Packers have three regular-season games remaining at Lambeau Field and could have two playoff games if they win home-field advantage in the playoffs. Their only road game is in Week 15 at the Kansas City Chiefs.

Continuing around the NFC North: