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Don’t Count on the Green Bay Packers Resting Starters in Week 17: Fan’s Take
Remaining healthy or maintaining momentum?
The Green Bay Packers clinched home-field advantage throughout the 2012 NFC playoffs with a 35-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Christmas night. The general thought amongst many fans is that the Packers' ultimate goal in their regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions is to make it out of the game as healthy as possible. While sweeping the Lions would be a bonus, the Super Bowl is what matters.
Don't tell Packers head coach Mike McCarthy this game is meaningless. According to McCarthy:
"We're going to play to win the game next week. I'm not real comfortable with a division opponent coming in here and not thinking we're going to play to get win No. 15."
Just coach speak? Don't count on that.
McCarthy was faced with a regular-season finale that meant nothing in terms of playoff positioning when they faced the Arizona Cardinals during the 2009-10 season. The Minnesota Vikings had already clinched the division with a 12-4 record and a regular-season sweep of the Packers.
At 10-5, the Packers couldn't improve their wild-card standing. Not only that, but the Cardinals were scheduled to be their opponent during wild-card weekend. That meant that anything that either opponent did during that regular-season finale could be tipped off heading into the following week.
So the Packers passed on the opportunity of using that regular-season finale as a bye week. The Cardinals went as far as playing their third-string quarterback, Brian St. Pierre.
The Packers took a 33-0 lead into the fourth quarter of a 33-7 victory. Kurt Warner only attempted six of the Cardinals' 31 passing attempts. Aaron Rodgers attempted 26 of 29 passing attempts for the Packers. The Packers dodged a bullet because Charles Woodson was injured during that game.
The Cardinals won the wild-card meeting 51-45. At one point, the Packers trailed 31-14 early in the third quarter before they tied the game at 38. The Packers would eventually lose in overtime on a strip-sack fumble that Karlos Dansby returned for a touchdown.
I originally thought that the Packers would rest starters before I thought back to this game. It would've made much more sense for McCarthy to bench them in that contest. Yet, he didn't. They went all out and dominated the Cardinals.
Was there a lesson to be learned from that game? And did McCarthy learn it?
I can respect the idea of wanting to go undefeated in the division. I can understand the concerns with momentum if players don't play from December 26, 2011, to January 14, 2012.
But let's not get greedy here. it doesn't mean much (anything?) if Green Bay is at a disadvantage in the playoffs. I really don't want to see any key players play more than a half. I'm fine with Chad Clifton playing for a couple quarters because he hasn't played since Week 5 and needs to get hit a few times.
Rodgers shouldn't play more than a series. This is a fantastic opportunity to establish a game plan with a run-heavy offense and give Matt Flynn some reps. The Packers have the NFL's 27th-ranked run offense; they need more from James Starks and Ryan Grant in January.
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. His favorite Packer moments include Super Bowl XXXI, XLV, and Al Harris interception return following Matt Hasselbeck's "We're gonna score" comments. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months.
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