I was rather shocked to read the opinions of some Packers fans in the comments section here at Cheesehead TV today regarding how the Packers should approach Sunday’s Christmas Day game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
I’m not entirely sure I care that much about the Packers securing the number 1 seed anyway. I’m not sure if I’d rather play San Francisco at home or at their place. In the end, it may not matter.
Agree. The Packers do well in warmer conditions and have had success in SF. Not sure if the last two games are worth risking further injury. The Bears and Lions always play tough. Haney looked sharp against the Pack in last year’s championship, so don’t underestimate. GB should play this like a tuneup for the playoffs. Use the backups. Rest the injured.
It might be the case that opinions like these are in the minority, but the fact that I read more than one comment like this set off red flags inside my brain.
I can see where they’re coming from. Their most compelling piece of evidence comes in the form of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom the Packers can’t afford to be injured, especially in light of the numerous injuries along the offensive line. I would assume the same goes for the other stars on the Packers roster to a lesser extent.
There’s also the two-game lead the Packers have in the quest for home-field advantage with two games remaining in the regular season. Their magic number is one: any combination of one Green Bay win (or tie) or one San Francisco loss (or tie) would wrap up every game being played at Lambeau Field for the duration of the playoffs. Not exactly a stretch of the imagination to think that’s going to happen.
But the Packers haven’t clinched that scenario yet. The 49ers made sure of that when they disposed of the Steelers last night at Candlestick Park.
As the cliche goes, the Packers can only worry about themselves and what they can control. That means they can’t hope and pray the Niners lose. And that means taking care of business on Sunday to ensure the path to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau Field.
No one wants to face a situation where the Packers lose and the 49ers win in Week 16, and the race for home-field advantage comes down to the final week of the season with the Packers on a two-game losing streak.
Obviously, there’s no need to take risks with injured players. Their health comes first and foremost. But if the players healthy enough to play, they should be playing just like this is Week 1 of the season.
There’s several risks with resting the starters against the Bears, the first being routine. The players need and are used to the same consistency week after week.
The preparation, the importance placed upon the game, the message the players receive should be the same as it has been all season long.
If the Packers start resting Rodgers now, for example, he’d be going basically a month between games when you take into account the final two games of the regular season along with the bye the Packers have already secured in the first round of the playoffs. That’s not an ideal situation for anyone.
And yes, the Packers have played well in controlled environments the past few years under Mike McCarthy. But they’ve also played well everywhere, including at Lambeau Field.
After losing some of that mystique with home losses in playoffs to the Falcons in 2003, the Vikings in 2005 and the Giants in 2007, it’s starting to come back. The Packers are 13-1 at Lambeau the past two seasons.
There’s a reason the home team in any sport at any level is more likely to win than the road team, everything else being equal. The absence of travel, the routine, the comfortable environs, the crowd noise and the weather are all small factors individually that add up to a palpable difference.
Who wouldn’t want to play at Lambeau Field in January? The players do, the coaches do, and the fans do.
Plus the revenue made from two playoff games helps the Packers in the long run, and the local economy in the short run.
The Packers need these things. They need home-field advantage. And they need to defeat the Bears to ensure it.
Hopefully the Packers get out to a huge second-half lead like they did two weeks ago against the Raiders and then rest the starters the remainder of the game.
Until that happens, game on.
Brian Carriveau is a writer for Cheesehead TV. To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.