Can Matt Flynn preserve Packers' hopes?

There never seemed much hope this week that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (concussion) would be cleared to play in Sunday night's game at the New England Patriots, and on Saturday the team made it official.

Rodgers has been ruled out and Matt Flynn will make his first career start. The Packers promoted Graham Harrell from the practice squad to serve as Flynn's backup Sunday night and placed safety Anthony Smith on injured reserve. Rodgers' concussion will leave the Packers without a whopping nine of the 22 players who were Week 1 starters.

Rodgers has started 45 consecutive regular-season games since taking over the job in 2008. The streak couldn't end at a worst time for the Packers, who are clinging to their playoff hopes here in Week 15. They could be eliminated from the NFC North title chase as early as Monday night if they lose to the Patriots and the Chicago Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings.

As we discussed Thursday, Flynn is a product of Packers general manager Ted Thompson's strict policy of developing key depth from within. A seventh-round pick in 2008, Flynn beat out fellow draftee Brian Brohm for the No. 2 job that summer. The Packers have never considered a veteran backup for Rodgers.

More often than not, Thompson's young backups rise to the occasion. Will that be true for the game's most important position as well? Or will Rodgers' concussion be the final blow in a season full of injuries for the Packers. We'll find out Sunday night.