Getting healthy and hot

Packers, Ravens among teams who could benefit from key players returning

Originally Published: November 30, 2012
By Gary Horton | Scouts Inc.
Clay MatthewsChris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCTA healthy Clay Matthews should give the Packers a playoff boost.

What NFL playoff contenders can get healthy for a Super Bowl push?

Injuries are part of the NFL season for every team, and the ones that can survive and overcome these injures are usually the ones standing in January. We've often heard that the teams "getting hot at the right time" are the most dangerous. However, "hot" should really be replaced with "healthy." So often the return of key players -- who have fresh legs after their prolonged absence -- can provide that critical spark to propel a playoff run.

As the postseason picture starts to take shape in 2012, I've identified four teams that might be getting healthy at exactly the right time.

Green Bay Packers

Nobody has suffered more injuries to key players than the Packers, but they also have the best chance among the elite teams of getting their guys back.

On defense, pass-rushing rookie OLB Nick Perry is gone for the season, but they are close to getting CB Charles Woodson and OLB Clay Matthews back. Both will practice this week and should be back in the lineup in the near future. That gives the Packers their best two defensive playmakers and leaders and it will really stabilize a defense that has played a lot of young players. CB Sam Shields will also be back soon to give the Packers what should be a much-improved pass rush and a deeper secondary.

Gary Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.