The prevailing question regarding the Green Bay Packers this week is simple: Will coach Matt LaFleur play his starters, including Aaron Rodgers?
The Packers locked up the top seed and home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs by defeating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night. They’ll travel to Detroit for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Lions with nothing on the line.
Don’t tell that to LaFleur.
“I have a hard time going into any game saying it doesn’t mean anything,” LaFleur said. “Every time you go out there, you try to perform your best. All of our guys who are playing, which is the majority of our team, they’ve got to go in with the mindset that they’re going to play the entire game.”
Rodgers, the favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award, has been hobbled by a toe injury for weeks, but it hasn’t affected his performance. He’s thrown 18 touchdown passes without an interception over the past six games. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings, while AJ Dillon added two rushing touchdowns in the 37-10 victory over the Vikings.
The Packers (13-3) carry a five-game winning streak into Detroit.
LaFleur said his decisions if and when to pull starters will be a “feel-type thing rather than having a concrete plan.” He doesn’t want to treat it like an exhibition game.
“I have a hard time operating like that when it’s the regular season,” he said.
With the revamped playoff structure, Green Bay will be the only NFC team with a bye. LaFleur will have to balance the potential for injury with the team having to scrape off rust during the conference semifinals.
“We’re going to Detroit to win a football game,” LaFleur said. “We know Detroit has been really tough in their last two home games. They beat Minnesota right at the end of the game, and they put a pounding on Arizona, and it’s no secret as to why. When you put on the film and watch these guys play, they play very physical, and they play very hard, and we know they’re going to do that for four quarters.”
Rodgers threw four touchdowns in Green Bay’s 35-17 win over the Lions in September. Detroit has lost its last two games, both on the road, with No. 1 quarterback Jared Goff sidelined first by a COVID positive test and then by a knee injury.
The Seattle Seahawks thumped the Lions 51-29 on Sunday. Goff’s replacement, former Packer Tim Boyle, threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns but was also picked off three times.
Goff, who was limited in practice on Wednesday, is questionable to play on Sunday.
“It’s progressing,” Goff said of his left knee. “I hope to play. We’ll see how the week goes, but I don’t know the answer until probably later in the week.”
Goff said the Lions (2-13-1), who already have clinched a top-two pick in the draft, would like to end the season on a high note.
“Who knows what they’re going to do with their starters or what not,” Goff said. “But by all accounts, they’re the top team in the league right now, and if we’re able to play a good game and come out with a win, it’d be pretty special to finish the season that way, and that’s how we’re looking at it.”
–Field Level Media