After clinching the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed with their victory over the Vikings on Sunday, the Packers don’t really have anything to play for in Week 18.
But there’s still a game scheduled against the Lions. And at least for now, head coach Matt LaFleur is planning on having his starters participate in it.
“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.
“So if somebody goes in there and they get injured, then [the question is] why’d you play your guys? But if you go out there in that first playoff game and you lay an egg, [the question is] why’d you rest your guys? So there’s not a right answer. The bottom line is, whatever we do, we’ve got to go out and perform and we know that. And that’s the way we’re going to go about it.”
LaFleur noted there is a chance some players could start the game but then exit after getting some work.
“I think certainly there is definitely a feel to that,” LaFleur said. “And I don’t want to speak in absolutes by any stretch. But I just think going into the game, you have to approach it like that. Whether a guy plays a half or three quarters, you’ve got to go into it with the mindset that I’m going to play this whole game.”
LaFleur’s rationale makes sense, but it also stands to reason that some players are going to be treated differently than others. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for instance, has been dealing with a fractured pinky toe since coming off the COVID-19 list in November, so it would probably make sense to rest him.
It probably would anyway, given his importance to Green Bay’s success. Plus, 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love could likely use the in-game reps.
Still, as LaFleur said, “I’m sure if you asked 100 different people, they could give you 100 different answers on what we should do.”
We’ll see if LaFleur changes his public stance as the week evolves.