The Packers’ 17th and final regular-season game is a dud already and it hasn’t even kicked off. Having locked up the top seed in the NFC, the Packers literally have nothing to play for, and the Lions have long been eliminated from any kind of postseason positioning. So what’s a Packers fan to do?
Honestly, who knows. Other than hoping nobody gets hurt, there’s not going to be much to see against the Lions. But we’ll be watching anyway, and here’s what our writers will be keeping an eye on this week.
Shawn Wagner: A Jordan Love appearance, but in the second half
As Matt LaFleur mentioned earlier this week, you could poll 100 people and get 100 different answers in terms of which starters should play and for how long in a game that won’t impact postseason pecking order. With the Packers getting a first-round bye and the Packers’ offense usually appearing rusty after bye weeks and limited preseason action, I personally would take the risk of Aaron Rodgers and the starters playing the first half to maintain some consistency. Perhaps limited dropbacks would be the best gameplan regardless of how long Rodgers plays to protect his foot and avoid unnecessary hits, but I’d like to see Green Bay’s offense at full force to begin the game. Getting some “welcome back” snaps for David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, and Josh Myers would be an added bonus.
From there, insert Jordan Love for another NFL showcase and allow the reserves an opportunity to cement another win over a struggling but hungry Lions team.
Kris Burke: No injuries and a lot of Love
If (underlined five times) the Packers do end up moving on from Aaron Rodgers this season, they will need to be a lot more confident in Love. The problem is they don’t have nearly enough film to go off of since he’s only played a limited preseason and one game. That isn’t enough to properly evaluate a quarterback, let alone one you are betting the franchise on.
This is a perfect opportunity for the second year quarterback. While it is “only the Lions”, good quarterbacks should be able to eat up a defense like Detroit’s. If Love is going to eventually be the man, he should be able to play well in whatever amount of playing time he gets on Sunday.
If he gives a so-so or a bad performance, questions likely will be raised within the organization wondering if Love can be ready to lead in 2022. Handing the reigns to Love based off what is already on tape is a huge risk unless the Packers have seen something in practice (and judging by Matt LaFleur’s responses to questions about Love, they haven’t).
Bottom line: if Love is bad on Sunday, the odds of a Rodgers return this fall grow even higher.
Also, no injuries, please. LaFleur might be playing with fire by giving his starters snaps in a meaningless game. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get burned. Injury luck hasn’t been with the Packers this far.
Tyler Brooke: Some records and milestones, baby
Stats are for losers unless there’s money and glory involved.
Several Packers have a chance at big bonuses and record-breaking milestones on Sunday. Preston Smith can trigger a $750,000 bonus with another sack, while Aaron Rodgers can trigger a $1 million bonus if the defense or special teams is able to record their third touchdown of the season.
I have no idea why that’s in 12’s contract, but ok.
Davante Adams also has the opportunity to break the team’s single-season receiving yards record currently held by Jordy Nelson. He only needs 22 yards to break the franchise record.
The debate about resting everyone will continue throughout this week, but I can’t fault any players for wanting to make history and get paid.
Paul Noonan: Nothing
Absolutely nothing. If the staff decides they need some live game practice, fine, whatever, but the one seed is locked up, this is the Lions, and there is nothing to prove. They should focus exclusively on getting healthy and staying healthy, and I personally don’t care about team records. If there are some guys close to hitting bonuses for certain achievements, I’m rooting for them. Other than that, the best thing you can do is fix special teams, and get a look at down-roster guys. Neither of which involve playing starters. At all.
Rcon14: No injuries and getting out of Detroit ASAP
I personally wouldn’t even players of any importance active for the game. I’m not sure there’s really any value to this game for the starters and I certainly wouldn’t be risking any important players. This is one where you maximize the use of your practice squad call-ups, give them actual playing time, maybe the COVID list will open up even more playing time for players that won’t impact the playoff run. Just don’t get anyone hurt and get this game over ASAP.
Jon Meerdink: A gameplan for Jordan Love
When Aaron Rodgers missed the Chiefs game due to COVID-19, I was very excited to see what Matt LaFleur would scheme up for Jordan Love. After all, if there’s any hallmark of the LaFleur era to date, it’s that he’s done a great job of identifying a given player’s strengths and putting him in a position to maximize them.
But then the game started and became abundantly clear the Packers were just going to run the Aaron Rodgers offense, except with Love at the helm. Predictably, it didn’t work, and the Packers struggled on offense until LaFleur junked his original approach. By then it was too late, and the Packers were sunk.
Now, LaFleur has the chance to amend one of his few big errors of 2021. With Rodgers not likely to play much, LaFleur should have a Love-centric game plan ready to go, and I’m excited to see it. Show me what Jordan Love can do when the offense is tailored to him. If there’s any chance he could do that on a permanent basis in 2022, let’s start to see what that could look like now.
Tex Western: A 14th win and Jaire in the slot
Look, I’m not saying the Packers should go all-out to win this game. I’m saying anything but, in fact. But if it’s what I want to see, it’s the Packers winning a 14th regular season game.
I know the 2011 Packers went 15-1 in the regular season, but we all remember how that playoff run turned out, and that was a deeply flawed team on defense anyway. But aside from that season, the Packers have never eclipsed 13 wins in a regular season. Does the addition of a 17th game give this year’s team a bonus chance to get win #14 that the 1996, 1997, 2019, and 2020 teams didn’t have? Sure. But it would still be a remarkable achievement in franchise history, and it would further expand Matt LaFleur’s lead on career wins in a coach’s first three seasons.
I’d love to see Jordan Love channel Matt Flynn and throw six touchdown passes, too. But given that Matt LaFleur intends to play his starters at least some of the game, I’d be pleased with a full half from Love and a victory.
The other big thing I’d love to see is Jaire Alexander back on the field. First, it would mean he gets cleared from the COVID list. Second, I think it would be useful for him to get a few real game reps, particularly in a game that means nothing. And third, I think I want to see how the secondary looks like with Jaire in the slot while Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas stay on the boundary.