The annual debate over whether to rest starters or go all out is in full swing again this season just like every other season. The situations are never identical, but whether a team decides to play to win or live to fight another day, they will forever be second guessed if the playoffs are a letdown.
Last season, the Packers had “nothing to play for” in week 17. Aaron Rodgers (along with his 45 TDs) was on the bench along with other key players. We all know how that worked out in the end.
I think, in hindsight, the only Packer who truly benefitted from that game was Matt Flynn!
This year is a very different scenario in that both the Packers and the Vikings have “something to play for.” The Vikings are in the playoffs with a win and, very likely, out with a loss.
The Packers can lock up the #2 seed and a coveted Bye. Obviously, a playoff berth is big, but just how big is a bye these days and should the Packers go all out to secure the bye?
As you may or may not know, since 2002, 5 out of 10 SBs (including 5 of the last 7) were won by teams that did not have a first round bye. Three of those five teams were Wildcard teams that never even played a home game in the playoffs! Of course WINNING the SB is the goal, but in order to have a chance to win the SB, you have to make it to the SB, and that is much more likely if you earn a first round bye.
Since 2002, #1 or #2 seeds represented their respective conference in the big game 14 out of 20 times. But, amazingly, in the last 5 years the NFC has had just one #1 seed and ZERO #2 seeds make it to the Super Bowl and only once in that span did both top seeds win after the bye (#1 seeds were just 1-4!).
AFC teams have done better, managing to get one of their top seeds to the Super Bowl every year for the past 5, but they are 1-4 in that span in the Super Bowl. The recent history in the NFC notwithstanding, a team with a bye has much better odds of making it to the Big Easy this year.
What it all boils down to is that the Packers need to treat this like a playoff game, bring their ‘A’ game and get a victory. If for no other reason than to prevent it from becoming one next week at Lambeau, but securing a bye will be a bonus!
WITH A PACKERS WIN: With a win, of course, the Packers get the bye as the #2 seed. From the Packers’ (and the NFLs) standpoint, all of the hullabaloo about the “inaccurate reception” will be over. The NFL and the replacement refs will be off the hook. If the Bears manage to win in Detroit, they will be the #6 seed. If they lose, they would open the door for the Giants to limp in with a win against the hapless Eagles coupled with a Cowboys win. To be honest, I’d rather see the Bears in the playoffs than the Giants. The Packers have the Bears number, but the Giants have the Packers number. I don’t see the magic happening for the Giants this year, but they’ve been written off before and made great runs.
WITH A VIKINGS WIN: The Vikings are in as the #6 seed and the Packers will play them at Lambeau unless both SF and SEA lose. One thing I hate, as a Packer fan, is to have to play another division game in the playoffs! The rivalries in the NFC North are legendary and the Vikings have had some success at Lambeau in the playoffs in the recent past, so I’d rather eliminate the Vikes at the earliest opportunity. Add to that, a trip to SF or SEA for the divisional round will make it an even tougher road.
The best scenario for the Packers is eliminating the Vikings and securing a bye. Along with that, I’d like to see the Cowboys knock off the Redskins; RGIII isn’t someone I’d like to see in the playoffs.
If the Packers come out like this is a playoff game, it shouldn’t be a contest. Granted, Adrian Peterson racked up 210 yards at Lambeau, but a big chunk of that came on his 82 yd TD run in the 1st half. Even with that, the Packers still put up a W. Christian Ponder stinks on ice and without Percy Harvin, he stinks even more than that. The Packers won’t completely shut down AP, but they certainly have nothing to fear from the Vikings passing attack.
Defensively, the Vikings shut down Houston on the road last week. That was impressive, even considering Houston’s inflated status in the main stream sports media. I don’t expect the same this week. The Packers are peaking at the right time (both offensively and defensively) and I don’t expect a hiccup at this stage in the season.
PACKERS 31 – Vikings 13