The Green Bay Packers have a nice problem entering the final week of the regular season.
With an NFC-best 13-3 record, the Packers effectively have nothing to play for. They are already the NFC’s top seed and can’t be caught regardless of their result against the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.
Should they choose to, head coach Matt LaFleur can give his starters an extra week off. Paired with the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Packers would get two weeks of rest before playing again in the divisional round.
It’s not necessarily that simple, of course.
Teams don’t always like having two weeks of rest before the playoffs. They would be playing against a team that hasn’t stopped playing important games, and would enter the divisional round with some momentum. The Packers would run the risk of being a little rusty after a couple of weeks off.
That said, it’s been done plenty of times.
Take last season as an example. The Kansas City Chiefs wrapped up the AFC’s top seed early, allowing them to rest starters in Week 17 versus the Los Angeles Chargers. With backups in, they lost the game, but it didn’t matter.
The Chiefs picked up where they left off in the postseason, winning home games in the divisional round and AFC title game to advance to the Super Bowl.
Risk-reward comes into it.
For the Packers, the biggest risk of resting their starters is making a slow start in the divisional round. The reward is key players avoid injury. In the case of Aaron Rodgers, he gets an additional week of not having to play through his toe injury.
The risk of playing is obvious. What if Rodgers or Davante Adams suffer a season-ending injury? Or even just an injury that potentially limits them in the playoffs? Would playing the game against the Lions be worth it?
For the Packers to go all the way, they need Rodgers to be healthy. With the top seed wrapped up, they should play it safe and rest their key starters next week against the Lions.