GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It’s a coveted place 31 other NFL teams would like to be.
First-round playoff bye locked up as the conference’s No. 1 seed with one regular-season game remaining.
The Green Bay Packers are in this enviable position and face the scrappy Lions in Detroit in the regular-season finale at Ford Field Sunday.
Head coach Matt La Fleur said in a press conference earlier this week that his team is going to Detroit to win a football game. He has weighed the analytics of NFL teams in the past that have played their starters for none, part, or all of a meaningless finale with top seed clinched.
Rest versus a loss of momentum with the NFC Divisional playoff at Lambeau slated for the weekend of January 22-23.
The potential for injury. The wishes of his players. The flow of the Lions game.
La Fleur has many factors to consider on the playing time of his starters, including Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, MVS, Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, De’Vondre Campbell, and Adrian Amos.
“I have a hard time going into any game saying it doesn’t mean anything,” La Fleur said. “I think every time you go out there, you’re trying to perform your best. So all our guys that 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.”
Green Bay is hoping several injured starters are able to return for the divisional playoff. Reports this morning state that All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is active and will see game action for the first time this season.
Ruled out of the Detroit game are Jaire Alexander, activated off COVID 19 list on Friday, receiver Randall Cobb, and linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Bakhtiari has practiced this week and was listed as questionable for Lions game. Center Josh Myers, who has missed 10 straight games, may also see action.
In La Fleur’s three-year tenue, Green Bay has won 39 games—most in a head coach’s first three seasons. If Packers defeat Detroit, La Fleur would tie Mike Ditka with the most victories in a three-year regular-season span.
When informed of that fact this morning, Ditka responded: “I didn’t know that fact. He’s a great head coach and the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, so they should go out and take care of business in Detroit. I know the Packers have the top seed locked up and Detroit is done after today. But it’s a division game and you have to earn it.”
Week 18 NFL Picks
Packers 27, Lions 24
Green Bay starters will see limited action and a fast start is needed for success. Detroit is scrappy and competitive at home (i.e. Cardinals upset) and the Packers have started slowly at Ford Field under La Fleur, but Packers again find a way to win.