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Every Game Counts in Packers' Quest for Home-Field Advantage

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Every Game Counts in Packers' Quest for Home-Field Advantage

Back in January, standing at a podium in the bowels of a soon-to-be retired Georgia Dome, Aaron Rodgers issued a challenge of sorts.

“If this has taught us anything, it’s how important home-field advantage is,” Rodgers said. “We’ve played in three of these games, and they’ve all been on the road, and that’s just making it tough on yourself.”

It wasn’t the first time Rodgers talked about playing NFC title games at Lambeau. In 2015, during the aftermath of Green Bay’s inexplicable implosion in Seattle, the quarterback went as far as to say being the number one seed should absolutely be a goal for the Packers each year.

Fast-forward to Juley 2017, when Rodgers doubled down yet again in an interview with NFL Network.

“We’ve got to start faster. We didn’t start fast last year, we lost four in row in the middle there,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to get those home playoff games again. We all feel like if we get that number one, number two seed and it’s coming through Green Bay in the playoffs, it makes it really tough on other teams.”

Missed opportunities in the regular season have been plentiful over the past three seasons, all of which came to an end somewhere other than Lambeau Field.

In 2014, the Packers lost a week three matchup in Detroit, 19-7, managing just 223 yards of offense against a Lions defense which featured a severely depleted secondary. Later that year, they dropped a 21-13 decision to a middling Buffalo Bills squad, the only smudge on a 7-1 finish to the season. Green Bay finished 12-4, losing out on the number one seed to Seattle by way of the conference record tiebreaker. We all know how that ended.

After starting 6-0 in 2015, the Packer offense seemingly caved in and the team lost four of their next five games, including home games against Detroit and Chicago. They failed to win the division for the first time in five seasons, and went into the playoffs as the fifth seed, where they knocked off Washington on the road before falling in Arizona.

Last season, the four game stretch Rodgers alluded to included a one-point loss to the Falcons and a home loss to Indianapolis—a game that featured a too little, too late rally from the Packers. Green Bay, of course, would eventually find themselves on the wrong side of an NFC Championship blowout in Atlanta.

In all three cases, just one more win would have vaulted the Packers to the next-highest seed come playoff time. While it doesn’t do much good to dwell on past results, the point remains: every game makes a difference.

That’s not to say the players and coaches in Green Bay don’t realize the importance of each and every game on the schedule, nor do they approach any game with complacency. There is, however, a certain faction of people who tend to view the early season as a “feeling out” period, where teams “jel” and “find their groove.”

If recent Packers history teaches us anything, it’s that teams are much better served to play with the same sense of urgency in week one as they do when they find themselves at 4-6 and on the brink of being eliminated from contention.

Sure, one loss early in the season may not mean a team will miss the playoffs. But how many times are playoff teams separated by one game or even a tiebreaker when seeding is determined? That one early loss starts to look a lot bigger when it’s the difference between playing at home or on the road in a playoff game.

Since one fateful Monday night in 2012, the Packers and Seahawks have developed what is probably the best inter-division rivalry in the NFC, if not the entire league. On that basis, it’s highly doubtful Green Bay will be lacking motivation when they kick off their 2017 season. If they should need anything extra, though, it wouldn’t hurt to consider whether they’d rather find themselves at CenturyLink Field or on the Frozen Tundra 18 or 20 weeks from now. If they play with that kind of urgency week in and week out, Aaron Rodgers may just get his home-field wish.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (13) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

The Packers won the Super Bowl as a wild card team. The Giants did the same thing twice in the last 10 years. Yes, it is generally easier to play at home than on the road, but really, what matters during the playoffs the most is how healthy you are and how well you are playing. The hot team wins. All of which is to say, if the Packers lose to Seattle and Atlanta in the next two weeks you can probably kiss the #1 seed goodbye, but don't give up on the Super Bowl, because a lot will happen between week #2 and week #17.

davy jones's picture

What REALLY matters most during the playoffs, is ball security and proper Pad Level... gotta clean that up.

The TKstinator's picture

Somebody's been paying attention!

Since '61's picture

I'm looking for the Packers to go 12 -4 this season. Possible losses include at Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Detroit. All on the road.

I'm a little concerned about the Bengals game at Lambeau because I'm hearing that their rookie RB Mixon is really explosive.

Is 12 -4 good enough for the #1 or #2 seed? I think it will be.
I think the Giants win the NFC East with either 10-6 or 11-5 at most.
NFC South probably goes to Atlanta but their division opponents are all capable of splitting their season series with the Falcons. Except for the Packers I don't think that any team in the North can beat Atlanta to help the Packers out. The Falcons could be 12 -4 or better.

NFC West is probably Seattle but could be Arizona if they remain healthy and Palmer regains his previous form. Either way I see that division winner going 11-5 or 10-6.

So except for Atlanta I think that the Packers will finish on top of the NFC as the 1 or 2 seed.

With home field the Packers should go deep in the playoffs. If the defense performs competitively in the playoffs I see an SB in February. But we have a long way to go. First beat Seattle. No excuses and Go Pack Go!
Thanks, Since '61

LayingTheLawe's picture

The Packers traditional rival is the Be*#s and there is still a big need to win your 6 division games as a path to the playoffs. But with the Be*#s likely to be a 4 - 12 team it is hard to make your season revolve around those games. The Vikings are another long time rival that the Packers play twice every year. Like the Be*#s their fans are loud and annoying if they win, so the desire to have an edge over them is big.

Other rivals are more due to the likelihood of facing those teams in the playoffs. During the Packers run in the 90s with Favre, the Cowboys and 49ers were always the teams in the way to the Super Bowl so rivalries started there. The Seahawks have seemed to be on the Packers schedule every year lately plus the playoff games have made them a team Packer fans really want to beat. If Atlanta remains good and a team faced in the playoffs again they will certainly become more a rival team.

MarkinMadison's picture

I'd agree with that assessment. Really, to create a rivalry, there has to be some wins and some losses. The juice has gone out of the Bears rivalry because they have been so bad lately. Detroits D line was playing a bit dirty for a while, but Suh has moved on so that has calmed down. The Packers have generally had the Falcons number (at least in the playoffs) until last year. I'm not sure why all the experts are down on Atlanta this year.

chugwater's picture

As an Onalaska, WI native in the western part of the state, our biggest rivalry was always Minnesota. There were so many bleed over fans for both teams across the state line.

Bears have the longest rivalry and I respect that, but Minnesota-Green Bay ranks right up there in the 90s with Favre, Randall, and Moss. Those were quite competitive games.

Minnesota might be on the cusp of the playoffs this year. Their defense is healthy. If their O line is functional they could pose problems.

dobber's picture

On a different note...

Good news on the 2018 FA class:

Maybe they can front-load some of that into 2017.

MarkinMadison's picture

Remember that under the new rules you can now roll over unused cap space from one year to the next.

A Pickled Packer's picture

If the Packers can run the table these next four games against tough opponents we should be in good shape to obtain the home field, the schedule lets up some after that. Since Rodgers in gunning for home field advantage, I bet he comes out smokin.

flackcatcher's picture

10-11 wins without breaks. 12+ with breaks. (breaks=few injures, favorable calls etc) A lot will come down to how fast this team jells. Every year it takes at least 6 games before a teams personality comes out. Last year it wasn't till the Redskins game that we saw the heart and soul of the packers team come out. Then they went on that incredible run. Packers jell early, few injuries, protect A Rodgers, this could be an extremely dangerous team. But as always, this is the NFL, everybody gets paid, and nothing is taken for granted.

Nick Perry's picture

I think this game is HUGE. For one it's a home game, take care of business at home and split on the road, that's 12-4. But lets just play devils advocate for a minute. IF the Packers were to lose this game against Seattle and then lose against Atlanta which seems to be the opinion of every Packers fan, they start 0-2 but what's worse they start 0-2 in the NFC. When it comes down to week 16 and 17 and the Packers are hopefully fighting for home field advantage, the difference between a win in week one and a loss will be HUGE.

cheesehead1's picture

Our success this season IMO rests with the D and how well or not they perform. Really hoping to see significant improvement and I think we will. As much as I dislike the Vikings, don't overlook them, they were decimated by injuries last year and have a very good D. Here's hoping for a great season and a minimum of injuries. Go Pack.

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