GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers still hopes to play without the brace he's worn on his left knee since his Week 1 injury, but he couldn't say yet whether that will be the case in Week 8 -- even after the benefit of a bye week. The Green Bay Packers quarterback is looking for any edge he can find entering what might be the toughest stretch of his NFL career.
The Packers begin a stretch of four road games in five weeks on Sunday at the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, where the Packers are the biggest underdogs (8.5 points) they've been since Rodgers became a starter in 2008. It continues at the New England Patriots and also includes road games at the Seattle Seahawks (on a Thursday night in a short week) and at the Minnesota Vikings. The lone game at Lambeau Field, against the Miami Dolphins, comes between the games at New England and Seattle.
With or without the knee brace, Rodgers said the Packers (3-2-1) are "going to have to play better, we're going to have to play a lot better than we have to win those games."
Rodgers said Tuesday that he could not remember a tougher stretch of games during his career.
"This is three division winners on the road and some tough tests for us," Rodgers said. "This week, obviously, a really hot team and then going against Tom [Brady] and Bill [Belichick] and those guys, fantastic organization that's obviously won a lot of championships, coming home and playing a tough Miami team, going on the road to one of the toughest places to play in the NFL and then obviously a big division rival game. It's a tough stretch."
The Packers' next five opponents have a combined record of 23-10-1, and only the Seahawks (3-3) don't have a winning record.
"This is an important stretch in our season," Rodgers said. "I'm not going to say it's going to define our season, but it's definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks on where we're at in the race and what we're playing for."
Rodgers did not practice on Tuesday -- a day the Packers treated like a Wednesday because they're leaving for Los Angeles on Friday. Rodgers hasn't practiced on a Wednesday since the injury, but he hopes to do so on Thursday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team is flying out early because of the tough travel it'll face over the next five weeks.
"We've got obviously three weeks of heavy travel," McCarthy said, referring to the three trips to the East and West coasts. "So, trying to take advantage of coming off the bye week."
Before the bye, Rodgers mentioned the possibility of another scan on his left knee to measure the level of healing, but he said Tuesday that he did not have an MRI.
"If I'm completely healed, I don't need to wear a brace," Rodgers said. "Feel more comfortable without it, obviously. Having dealt with a knee injury for much of my football life, obviously you're more protected. You see some guys who do wear it all the time without having issues, but I just feel more comfortable without having it on. So if it's not on, that means I'm feeling great, and if it is, that means I'm not quite all the way back."