Packers coach Matt LaFleur explains why he wants to play starters in season finale

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Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur and his staff looked at past teams in similar situations and also talked to their players, and a consensus formed: All available players will be on the field in some capacity in the season finale against the Detroit Lions.

LaFleur confirmed he’ll be starting every available and healthy starter on Sunday. And the goal, regardless of who is on the field, is to win the game.

“All our guys that are playing, which is the majority of our team, they have to go in with the mindset that they’re going to play the entire game,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “As far as where that goes, and if and when we decide to pull some guys, it’s going to be totally a feel-like thing than having a concrete plan. But the message to our team is, and this is how we truly feel, is we’re going to Detroit to win a football game.”

LaFleur said Mike Halbach, the team’s director of football technology, led a group that “did a great job” of breaking down the situation entering Week 18 with the No. 1 seed clinched. The study looked at past teams with nothing to play for in the season finale, and it helped guide LaFleur’s decision.

“We did some studies in terms of how other teams have fared when going into the final week of the season that had a bye, and it was overwhelming in favor of giving the guys at least some time,” LaFleur said. “You weigh that information, and you also talk to your players, and these guys want to play. So that’s how we’re going to go about it.”

LaFleur’s biggest worry exiting Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings was the potential layoff and the risks of giving his key players three weeks away from the playing field before a playoff game.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams both voiced a desire to play. Rodgers said it would be important to keep the momentum going after winning five straight games. LaFleur agreed.

“We want to keep that momentum going into the postseason,” LaFleur said.

How long key players will be on the field Sunday in Detroit is unclear. LaFleur said it will be more of an in-game decision than one that is decided before kickoff.

“You have to go with your gut in terms of how the game is going. We are going with one mindset: to go compete to the best of our ability, and win a football game,” LaFleur said.

After Sunday’s finale, the Packers will have a first-round bye in the postseason and won’t play again until the NFC Divisional Round.

Our take: LaFleur is willing to expose his players to unnecessary risk of injury in an inconsequential game, but it’s hard to argue with his reasoning. The Packers did their homework and listened to their players. This is football, after all. And the players want to be out there. Neither Rodgers nor Adams seemed all that worried about the injury risk, but there will be outside anxiety of a key injury. The best-case scenario on Sunday: key players stay sharp and stay healthy, and the Packers win in Detroit to finish 14-3.

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