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Thursday, January 12, 2012
NFC 411: Packers lineup nearly intact

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

A year after the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV with more than a dozen prominent players on injured reserve, the following sentence is particularly jarring: The Packers will open the playoffs Sunday with 21 of their original 22 starters in place.

The only exception is Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who was lost for the season in Week 2 because of a serious neck injury. Their offensive line worked through a number of short-term injuries, but the return of tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga ensure the Packers their original five starters for the first time since Week 3.

The shift in injury karma covers my portion of this week's NFC 411 video below.

Most everyone is well aware that Clifton missed 10 games after tearing a hamstring in Week 5, but the Packers were already playing without Bulaga at that point. Bulaga sprained his knee in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears, reinjured it in Week 15 and missed a total of four games.

Coach Mike McCarthy apparently has chosen Clifton over Marshall Newhouse as his left tackle for the playoffs, putting the original band back together. The Packers' Week 1 starters -- Clifton, Bulaga, guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang and center Scott Wells -- played only 126 snaps together this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That equates to about 12 percent of the Packers' total plays in 2011.

But that group was by far the Packers' best combination. It allowed one sack for every 24.7 pass attempts in those 126 plays. Over the remainder of the season, the Packers' other offensive line combination gave up a sack on one of every 12.6 pass attempts.