Despite having the No. 1 seed in the playoffs locked up, the Green Bay Packers may play their starters Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are on opposite ends of the spectrum this season. While the Packers have the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff secured, the Lions will pick no lower than No. 2 in April’s draft.
For the Packers, with the first-round playoff bye coming, the question becomes whether to play their starters in Week 18 against the Lions (and for how long if so). The deeper consideration is “rest vs. rust”, with the key players not seeing game action for three weeks if they are rested in the regular season finale. Lingering injuries also play into the equation.
Will the Packers play their starters against the Lions Sunday?
On Monday night’s “ManningCast” alongside the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he intends to play against the Lions. Earlier in the day during his press conference, head coach Matt LaFleur reflected the same mindset.
"Right now, the mindset is going into this is we’re going to play our guys and we’re going to approach it like every other game,” LaFleur said in his Monday press conference. “I just think that the reason behind that is I’m not comfortable having, essentially, a three-week layoff for our guys. And I know you can look at it a million different ways and there’s never a right answer unless it works out."
LaFleur did suggest some players could start the game, get some work and then be removed.
On Tuesday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell reflected what LaFleur said, while citing the opportunity that’d be in front of his team.
"If we put up a good fight and found a way to beat those guys knowing that they’re the No. 1 seed in the NFC, that would feel pretty good,” said Campbell. “And it sounds like they may start all their guys. That would be awesome. What’s better than that? You’re gonna get a fully-loaded Green Bay Packers team for the last game of the year and you’re gonna get a chance to end on a high.”"
The Packers could shift their thinking as this week goes on, and totally rest Rodgers, Davante Adams, etc. in a game that means nothing to them. But for now it looks like they plan to have key players at least play a bit, and the Lions are going to embrace the test for however long it lasts.