The Green Bay Packers have what you call a good problem to have going into Week 18 in Detroit.
The Packers have a league-best 13-3 record and have locked up the #1 seed in the NFC heading into the last week of the season. Teams in this situation always have a certain dilemma; do they sit key starters and give them even more rest, or do they let them play to avoid rust building up? It looks like the Packers will play their starters in week 18.
Coach Matt LaFleur knows it is an important decision to make this week. This is a Packers team that has started slowly in most of their games this year. Whoever the Packers will matchup against in the Divisional Round of the playoffs will have the advantage of playing multiple important games in a row. This could lead to their opponent having more momentum than Green Bay to start that game off.
On Monday, LaFleur hinted at having the starters like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams play against the Lions. The risk of building up rust might be worse than the risk of injury, LaFleur claimed. Rodgers and Adams pointed out that they would support LaFleur’s decision and would understand if he wants them to play.
Rodgers, after the Vikings game, said this is the best his toe has felt during a game since he injured it. He also said on the Pat McAfee show Tuesday, “The plan is to play.” On Monday, Davante Adams said he wanted to play next week, to “get out there and run around a bit for sure.”
Davante Adams needs 22 yards to break Jordy Nelson’s 2014 single season Packers receiving yardage record of 1,519. Another Packer playing for something would be a guy like Rashan Gary looking for his first 10 sack season. Also, Preston Smith, having a rejuvenation year, is looking to get 10 sacks and a contract incentive bonus. Matt LaFleur is also looking for his 40th regular season win in three years.
Other players to monitor about playing in a limited capacity on Sunday would be: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Kenny Clark, De’Vondre Campbell, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Marcedes Lewis, MVS, Allen Lazard, etc.
The advantage of having a player-first coach is that it seems it will be an ongoing discussion all week. LaFleur said, “They’ve got a great pulse of the locker room. They’re our leaders in that locker room so we’ll definitely have that conversation with them.”
Coach LaFleur said his gut is “these guys are gonna play at least a little next week.”
Green Bay @ Detroit is a 12pm central kickoff on Sunday. It will be interesting to watch how much these key players play in this meaningless game.
Green Bay will inevitably be playing a team riding high off a Wild Card victory looking to come into Lambeau Field to spoil the Packers season. Luckily, so far, the Packers have been able to shake off most slow starts to figure out how to win games. But winning with this strategy becomes less likely and more risky and dangerous in the playoffs.