A popular refrain among a sect of Green Bay Packers fans this week is that the team should not necessarily play to win this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings and should instead rest players up while accepting a road date against Washington in the Wild-Card round.
Make no mistake: the Packers do not subscribe to this theory, and we argue that they are right not to do so.
Some people point to the potential difficulty of beating one team three times in the same year (if Minnesota ends up as the playoff opponent). Others point to how hot the Seahawks have been over the past six weeks or so (despite their abysmal home loss to St. Louis on Sunday).
The fact is that a home game at Lambeau Field, especially in January, remains a significant advantage. The offense has been at its best at home, and they have found that one of their best weapons is Aaron Rodgers' hard count. That advantage vanishes on the road. Furthermore, home teams are 83-47 in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs dating back to 1970, underscoring the importance of winning the division. Finally, there are other tangible benefits as well that may not necessarily impact the team in the short term but that are a significant benefit nonetheless.
So let's put aside the silliness of hoping for a road game in Washington (a viewpoint which forgets how well that team has played in recent weeks) and focus on beating Minnesota and winning the NFC North again.
Packers will 'play to win' against Vikings | Packersnews.com
So says Mike McCarthy, who wants a home playoff game desperately and will need every available player on Sunday for his team to earn it.
Division title and millions from home playoff game trumps all | 247sports.com
Regardless of whether you think the Packers are going anywhere in the playoffs, the influx of money into the organization and the Green Bay area from a playoff game should be more than enough to make you want a win in week 17.
No crisis of confidence for Packers | Packers.com
Apparently none of the coaches have lost confidence in their players, and they say that the players have not lost confidence in themselves. It's tough to believe, though, after the drubbing on Sunday and the persistent issues that have plagued this team.
Packers' Mike McCarthy wavers on how drops affect receivers' playing time | JSOnline
One may infer from the coach's comments that Jared Abbrederis was benched after a big drop early in the game, but it's tough to understand why he does not seem to treat all of his struggling players similarly.
Green Bay Packers need Clay Matthews to reverse tackle-free trend - ESPN
Matthews has not recorded a tackle in the past two games, something that is unacceptable for a player who spends so much of the game at inside linebacker.
Broncos kicker Brandon McManus missed a playoff-clinching field goal by, oh, 20 yards - SBNation.com
Shank alert! McManus eventually kicked a game-winner in overtime, but this 45-yard miss was truly impressively bad.