Cory's Corner: Choose Health Over Home Field

A Super Bowl run goes through a nearly healthy Packers team. 

The Packers have hit a fork in the road. 

Coming into tomorrow’s game vs. the Rams, the Packers have 10 players on the final injury report. And that doesn’t include Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, Josh Myers or the most versatile offensive lineman on Green Bay’s roster — Elgton Jenkins. 

This season has been a trainer’s nightmare for the Packers. It’s not just that they have had so many injuries, it’s that they have had so many notable injuries. 

Now head coach Matt LaFleur must make a decision as the Packers prepare to face their toughest test of the season. 

With the bye week coming up next week, do the Packers rush players back quicker in order to lock up the No. 1 seed or do they make sure the key players are fully ready to go?

That’s a tough question, especially in a year that has been so random. There really hasn’t been a top team in the NFL and there isn’t a runaway favorite for the MVP either. 

But given both options, I would have to choose health. We all know that this Packers team is very talented, but there is one thing that remains a mystery with this unit — we don’t know how good this team can be. With all of the weapons this team has, it’s like having a Lamborghini Diablo without the use of the fifth gear.

We’ve seen this team win games that they probably shouldn’t have and that Week 1 fail fest is a game that they obviously should have. 

With how up and down this season has been, Green Bay can still swallow a couple more losses and be OK. Let’s face it, the NFC North is all but wrapped up. They recently dropped a tight one to Minnesota, but don’t forget that the Vikings had to escape with a late field goal. 

History is also on Green Bay’s side. When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, every playoff game they won was on the road. A 21-16 NFC Wild Card win at Philadelphia, a 48-21 NFC Divisional Round win at Atlanta and a 21-14 NFC Championship Game at Chicago. 

Many don’t think that history can repeat itself because the No. 1 seed is now more valuable because that is the only team from each conference that gets a bye. While that may be, how important is the No. 1 seed if you have to get into the playoffs limping and hobbling? 

The Packers won’t get Jenkins back this year, but they will welcome back David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones and hopefully Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander. This team has been getting by on chicken wire and double sided tape for awhile now. The fact that this team is 8-3 is a credit to the coaching staff.

Even if the Packers finish 12-5, that’s completely fine. A No. 1 seed will be out, but it would also mean that Green Bay has bigger goals than a shiny record.

This is one of the most even seasons that I can remember. That’s why the Packers need to be as close to full strength when it matters most. If that means sitting Aaron Rodger because his pesky toe injury doesn’t go away, so be it. 

This is the year. There are no guarantees for next season with so many question marks surrounding so many veterans. 

A No. 1 seed is something that the fans really want, but health is the one thing a team really needs. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

6 points

Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Packerlifer's picture

November 27, 2021 at 06:28 am

The Packers are only 7-6 in their last 13 playoff and championship games at Lambeau since 2002. They've had the number one "seed" 3 times over that span. Never once did they capitalize on that position to get to the Super Bowl. They've lost the last two home NFC Championship Games they've had there.

So if you're going to make it a matter of health versus home field I think health matters more.

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Houndog's picture

November 27, 2021 at 07:37 am

As painful as it was to watch 'what might have been' against the Chiefs and the Vikings, getting guys healthy(er) is more important.
The possibility of them winning it all likely depends on getting a few guys back. For guys like Bahktiari, Jones, Lazard, Myers, Alexander, Z-Smith, and even King to return too soon, only to complicate or compound an existing injury would certainly be a losing proposition.
As we've seen with Bahktiari, Jenkins is likely gone for most of next year, and that's a really high cost for an unimportant win.
Rest them, take the Bye, and then let's make a run at it.

4 points
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Guam's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:07 am

I often don't agree with Cory, but on this topic I do. Don't rush Gary, Lazard, and others back for this game. Play with whomever is healthy and let the others heal up. With a bye week coming, the Packers have a chance to get their wounded back to much better health. Take it and let the chips fall where they may with the Rams.

8 points
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NickPerry's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:21 am

Normally I hate the bye week. Sundays (Or Thursdays & Mondays) just aren't the same when the Packers aren't playing. But this year for the first time ever, I can't wait for that bye week. This team NEEDS a bye more than any team I can remember.

Lets hope the Packers by week 16, Christmas at Lambeau, the Packers get Bakhtiari, Meyers, Z Smith, Gary, and Alexander back by then. Maybe Alexander and Smith is a tough ask, but I'm still holding out hope the Football Gods will be kind to us...FOR ONCE!

8 points
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Swisch's picture

November 27, 2021 at 06:41 pm

By and bye, if we buy some time with good play from our reserves, we may just be at our best by the playoffs. Then we can beat the Bucs in a rematch and wave them bye-bye. We'll see how it all works out for the Packers by and by.

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Rossonero's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:24 am

I agree with Cory as well. This is about short-term vs. long-term gains and what is the Packers' appetite for risk.

If the staff rushes out guys like Gary, King, etc. then they risk more serious injury and could get knocked out for the rest of the season. Obviously lots of teams have guys playing who are hurting, but is it worth it for one game? While the idea of going on the road for a bunch of playoff games isn't ideal, this team can handle that kind of pressure.

Here's what I'm hoping to see to compensate for these guys being out:
Offensively:
1. Ball comes out quickly. No slow developing plays or McCarthy-style isolation routes, especially against this pass rush.
2. Commit to the run game. I know that's easier said than done with an O-line missing 3 starters, but in this kind of weather, Dillon needs to get more than the 11 carries he got vs. Minnesota.
3. Get Adams involved early and often. He didn't have many issues with Jalen Ramsey last time around

Defensively:
1. Have gap discipline at all costs
2. Stuff the Rams' run game (which isn't their strength)
3. Force Stafford to pass - he'll throw up a few ducks

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:59 am

Your first paragraph sums it up admirably.

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Rossonero's picture

November 27, 2021 at 12:44 pm

thanks Coldworld!

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jurp's picture

November 27, 2021 at 10:35 am

I'm all for Stafford throwing up a few ducks, but it's up to our CBs and Ss to actually catch them - not their strength last week, unfortunately, but some of that was Lady Luck giving a solid to the Vikings.

Here's to our DBs having a hell of a game on Sunday, with multiple interceptions and (why not?) a pick-six to help out the offense.

6 points
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Rossonero's picture

November 27, 2021 at 02:30 pm

Amen to that. Won't matter if nobody in our secondary can catch 'em!

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Swisch's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:29 am

I agree health is the priority.
As I think others would agree, we still go for wins regardless of how many injured players are held out.
We play hard and smart, show some creativity in the game plans on both sides of the ball, and see if we can't come out on top even being shorthanded.
***
In this upcoming game against the Rams, if we can't run the ball against their front line, we can still play small ball with an array of passes that stretch the field horizontally.
However, we did have success running the ball against these guys in the playoffs last season, as I remember it -- with both Jones and Dillon -- so maybe we ground and pound them again.
Along the way with the small ball, we judiciously look for passing opportunities in the intermediate range, and an occasional shot deep. Perhaps a trick play or two, as well.
***
In that 2010 Super Bowl season, we found James Starks as a key contributor at running back just as the playoffs began, a mostly unknown rookie drafted in the 6th round out of Buffalo.
Let's see who may step up for us in 2021.
Even in the disappointment and sadness and frustration of all the injuries this season, I'm hoping the Packers seize these upcoming games as exciting possibilities for new solutions and finding ways to win.

5 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:36 am

I have a concern bigger than a first round bye or "team health".

I am concerned with coordination of team effort.

I am concerned with team continuity.

If a player cannot be healthy after the bye with those 2 weeks off, exactly how much time will they actually have with the team before the playoffs arrive and its one and done?

I value continuity, it is the glue that makes a collection of players into a team. This team has had precious little of that this season and time is slipping away. It is time to take the season's end into consideration when evaluating bringing players back to active status.

Get 'em healthy, or get 'em on IR and out of the minds of the guys that are going to have to step up for this team to succeed in the season's goal of winning it all.

I want to see both sides of the ball playing with coordinated efforts and confidence. I would like to see some strategic decisions regarding special teams like catching every punt with a fair catch and consistent directional kicking to limit the damage that the coverage units perpetrates on the team each and every game. It is time to place some starters on the protection units if the current group cannot get it done. It is well past the time for MLF or his designate to spend more time with the ST or just replace Drayton, he should have been replaced earlier.

It has been a challenging season for sure, but time is not on the GBP side now. It is now time for some hard decisions to be made and the time for letting it play out with unlimited patience is pretty much over.

This isn't meant as a "play everyone vs the rams" statement, I said after the bye some decisions need to be made.

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murf7777's picture

November 27, 2021 at 08:33 am

Packers win, only if they win the turnover battle and it might need to be +2. I wish for no more injuries. I’m thankful for the efforts this team puts out. I’m worried, with what now is an average OL, that Rodgers gets out of this game healthy. We need Bak and Myers back after the Bye if we are going to make it to the big dance.

5 points
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packer132's picture

November 27, 2021 at 02:44 pm

I don't think its a worry of rushing injured players back for the Packers. They have always been a conservative medical staff, and err on the side of caution. This week may see one of Jones, Lazard, Gary but not all three. The roster is the deepest in many years, and I feel good about the players who will be out there against the Rams. Packers win a close one; 27-24 at cold Lambeau (33 degrees).

3 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

November 27, 2021 at 09:17 am

100% agree and have been thinking this most of the season. The Packers frequently do not capitalize when having home field advantage in the playoffs anyway. Warm weather teams come to Lambeau in the winter consistently beating the Packers over the years. In 2010 the Packers I believe were a wild card team and went on to win the SB.

The 2021 Packers are not going anywhere this year unless they get as many of their injured players back. It is as simple as that!

3 points
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Oppy's picture

November 27, 2021 at 10:48 am

This isn't exactly a one-or-the-other proposition going into the Rams game.

You can't easily say it's about resting your players vs. the Rams before the bye because health comes first, since beating the Rams and eventually securing the #1 seed would provide an extra bye for the playoffs- which would be another two week opportunity to rest and restore your players before the playoff run.

I do agree health is of the utmost importance. Having two byes would be a huge boost to improving team health, but that second bye only comes with winning pivotal games against top NFC competition.

Tough waters to navigate. Let's hope the Packers can draw up gameplans that allow us to win out the rest of the regular season and obtain the #1 seed without jeopardizing the health of our banged-up players.

5 points
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croatpackfan's picture

November 28, 2021 at 04:01 am

Oppy, I'm worried about that bye week at the beginning of the post season. I would prefere that Packers play all 3 games as it gives some continuity to the team which playing every week.

Packers are sure tired and they need that bye week next week, rest the team and prepare the team for 9 games span. most our competition would have more games in their play off push than Packers at that moment. That may be advantage. Only Cardinals will have just one game more as they had bye week4 last weekend.

I believe this is better way to win all.

1 points
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ImaPayne's picture

November 27, 2021 at 10:53 am

First one moot point, the packers lost home field advantage last week so unless the cardinals falter everything goes through them now.
Second, my thinking from past experience is when the coaches aren't yuking up someone returning, its a good sign they know more then we do and it aint looking good. I dont have hopes for Alexander or Smith2.
The O line we have is what we have and worse, who knows if one of two more go down between now and the playoffs. Rodgers needs time to read the field and make the throws or this is just a so so team at best. I'm not even looking at playoffs, they may not get there.

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Oppy's picture

November 27, 2021 at 01:00 pm

You are correct that the cardinals are in control of their own destiny. If they win out, they're 1 seed. But they still have division games vs. Rams and Seahawks, and if they drop one of those games while the Packers win out, the Packers hold the tiebreaker in head to head win vs. the Cards. It's not implausible.

This whole "they may not get there" stuff is silly. You have to be a vikings troll. The Packers are not losing the division.

3 points
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ImaPayne's picture

November 27, 2021 at 10:53 am

First one moot point, the packers lost home field advantage last week so unless the cardinals falter everything goes through them now.
Second, my thinking from past experience is when the coaches aren't yuking up someone returning, its a good sign they know more then we do and it aint looking good. I dont have hopes for Alexander or Smith2.
The O line we have is what we have and worse, who knows if one of two more go down between now and the playoffs. Rodgers needs time to read the field and make the throws or this is just a so so team at best. I'm not even looking at playoffs, they may not get there.

0 points
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Swisch's picture

November 27, 2021 at 11:26 am

So do we rest Aaron Rodgers this week against the Rams, and then with the bye give him another two weeks to heal?
I guess that may be a question for other players, too.
It's hard for us to give an answer, because we don't know the extent of the injuries, and how extra time may figure in recuperation.
***
Would an extra two weeks make a big difference in Rodgers' toe being much better for the rest of the season? In that case, it may be worth the wait.
Have Jordan Love run ball control, with lots of handoffs and some quick passes. Really commit to a run game this week against the Rams, and see how it goes.
Surprise the Rams with a couple of deep shots, especially on third and long when an interception could be similar to a punt in field position (with players following the long pass to make the tackle if necessary).
That may be the way to go. Play hard and smart. Play loose and have fun.
I still think we can beat the Rams this way.

-4 points
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jont's picture

November 27, 2021 at 02:49 pm

"Would an extra two weeks make a big difference in Rodgers' toe being much better for the rest of the season?"

No. Rest a broken bone in your foot for two weeks and then run on two weeks plus one day and you will be right back where you are today.

1 points
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NoNonsense's picture

November 27, 2021 at 11:56 am

"Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"

When thinking about all this, that song just plays in my head. Heck with it, I'm just here to enjoy the ride. Be nice to catch a break on the injury front for a while but it's a battle of attrition and right now GB is kinda losing that battle.

Hard to know what could've been or what will be but it is what it is, if it wasn't, it wouldn't be. So there is always that.

4 points
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Packers0808's picture

November 27, 2021 at 12:02 pm

If we play with a zapped down team, to me the biggest down fall this team has is always Rodgers trying to heave the hero ball. Take what you can go downfield in short spurts and plays. The chances this way are 100 times better than heaving "miracles". Rodgers has to rein his silly ass ego!

0 points
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cheesehead1's picture

November 27, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Run the ball and don’t abandon it early. As with any game, win the turnover battle and pressure Stafford. We’re overdue to come out of this game with no new injuries. GPG!

3 points
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