The Green Bay Packers are riding high with a 12-0 mark and home field throughout the NFC playoffs a virtual guarantee. However, because the San Francisco 49ers are doing shockingly well this season, the Packers will have to give it their all for at least a few more games before they can clinch that home field advantage.
Once that happens, Green Bay will face a choice that all late-season undefeated squads inevitably have to deal with: play the starters and chase an undefeated mark or sit the starters and let everyone rest up for the grueling playoffs.
In 2007, the New England Patriots opted to give it 100 percent, throughout, but ultimately came one game shy of securing the highly-desired perfect year. Then, in 2009, the Colts purposely rested their starters and sacrificed a potential undefeated season – ultimately winning the Super Bowl.
Now that the Packers are basically expected to win out over the course of the regular season, should they choose do play their starters, the question becomes: will they?
This week, Green Bay may or may not have given us some insight into the answer to that question when they activated backup quarterback Graham Harrell off the practice squad and placed tight end Andrew Quarless on season-ending injured reserve. Is this because the Packers are planning to rest starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and want another backup for second-string passer, Matt Flynn?
Maybe. Or, perhaps the Green Bay is simply doing what the team did last season, ensuring sufficient backups for the most important position on the field heading into the postseason. The defending champions made the exact same move last year for the final three games of the season and the playoffs.
On Wednesday, the conspiracy theories about Rodgers possibly being sat down once the Packers clinch home field advantage were running rampant. And while the theory isn’t crazy, there isn’t enough evidence pointing to this being the case here.
Rather, it appears as though Green Bay is just playing it safe (as they did last season) all the while giving Harrell some extra time in the (likely) event that Flynn leaves for greener pastures this offseason. By locking up Harrell and getting him off the practice squad, the Packers ensure that he’ll be a viable option for them should the day come in the near future when they need to replace their second-string quarterback.
So, no. It doesn’t appear as though the defending champs are ready to throw in the towel on a perfect season just yet.