Green Bay Packers: Predicting the Final 3 Games in the Pack's Road to Perfection
The Green Bay Packers will not take their foot off of the gas pedal for these final three regular-season games. Players such as Charles Woodson and Aaron Rodgers have already alluded to the fact that they would like to go 16-0.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy refuses to elaborate much past this Sunday's game at Kansas City, but just his demeanor makes it hard to believe that he would play any game to lose.
Although many fans and media have speculated as to whether or not the Packers would rest their starters if they can wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win this weekend, McCarthy claims that the Packers have already slightly scaled back their practice schedule because of the wear and tear the cold weather has on his players. Maybe this is an alternative to or his idea of resting his starters.
Besides, history has not been kind to teams who have decided to hold starters out for fear of injury, the most glaring example being the 2009 Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts were sitting at 14-0 when coach Jim Caldwell decided to pull superstar quarterback Peyton Manning and a host of other valuable first-stringers in the third quarter of a contest against the New York Jets.
But they were loudly booed by their home fans after backup signal caller Curtis Painter coughed up a fumble that was returned for six. The Jets won the game, therefore ruining the Colt's perfect record, 29-15.
The Colts never really seemed to regain their mojo; they went on to play in Super Bowl XLIV, but they lost the game to the New Orleans Saints, 31-17.
The Packers do not want to make the same mistake, and I feel they will not slack off on their way to 16-0. Here are my predictions for the last three regular-season games.
Week 15: Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10
May as well go with the same score as Super Bowl I.
The Chiefs looked like a team who has already packed it in during last week's 37-10 rout at the hands of the San Diego Chargers. Head coach Todd Haley was subsequently dismissed and supplanted by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Quarterback Tyler Palko is just 1-3 as a starter after replacing the injured Matt Cassell. He has thrown just two touchdowns against seven interceptions and has an abysmal quarterback rating of only 59.8. While the Packers' defense has given up a lot of yards this season, Palko does not scare anybody.
Plus there is no chance the Packers will hold any of their players out, as they have not officially clinched home-field advantage.
Even without favorite wideout Greg Jennings, Rodgers still has plenty of reliable targets, and it's only a matter of time before he gets the Packer offense moving.
The Chiefs' defense has played pretty well this season, but no one has held the Packers under 24 points in any one game this year. The Chiefs can't do it either, and their punch-less offense will not be able to score 24 points anyway.
Week 16: Green Bay 30, Chicago 13
The Bears' offense has been crippled since losing quarterback Jay Cutler to a broken thumb during a win over San Diego. Replacement Caleb Hanie has had trouble moving the ball and with turnovers. His passer rating is a horrible 48.5. The Bears would like nothing more than to ruin the Packers' perfect season, and this exactly why I believe McCarthy will not let this happen.
Things will get dicey for McCarthy, however, as the Packers will no doubt have nothing left to play for by Christmas night. If and when he removes Rodgers and other key players will be scrutinized as much as the result of the game.
Hanie and the Bears' offense have been so pathetic in three straight losses that you have to wonder if the Packers could beat them even with backup QB Matt Flynn at the helm. Flynn did perform admirably in the last game the Packers lost—nearly a year ago against the New England Patriots, 31-27.
In my opinion, Rodgers will play, but for how long may depend on the score of the game. The Bears' defense has been good, but without Cutler to help their offense control the ball they will simply be on the field for too long.
Week 17: Green Bay 27 Detroit 20
This is without a doubt the most difficult game left on the Packers' slate.
Unlike the Chiefs and Bears, the Lions will be at relatively full strength.
Detroit was the hottest team in football after starting the season 5-0, but has since fell on hard times and is now struggling to make the playoffs.
A lot of people in Detroit did a lot of talking before the two teams met on Thanksgiving Day. Many prognosticators predicted the Lions would upset the unbeaten Pack.
Hearkening back to the last time the Packers were 10-0 in 1962, long-time Detroit fans recalled that their team sacked Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr 10 times at old Tiger Stadium on Thanksgiving Day in a 26-14 upset.
Some Detroit players boasted that they expected a similar scenario.
But it was not to be, as the Lions were dominated in the second half en route to a 27-15 loss. Evidently, telling the world champion Packers you are going to beat them is not a good idea.
But maybe if Rodgers and some other starters do not play—or even play sparingly—the Lions can halt the Packers' quest for perfection after all.
But I say otherwise—the Detroit Lions have not beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field since1991, a streak that encompasses 17 straight losses since a few of the games were played in Milwaukee. After a hot start Lions QB Matthew Stafford has cooled off in recent weeks.
Well, that's the skinny.
In spite of the Greg Jennings scare, I do not expect the Packers to give away any games, especially since they are going to be competing against two hated NFC North rivals in their last two games.
I think the Packers will be smart, and players will be removed quickly if they can work to a sizable lead.
But if it comes down to the fourth quarter, I believe McCarthy will stay with his starters.
Like he said, to think that your quarterback is not going to get hit in an NFL game is not realistic. But Rodgers is the one player the Packers cannot afford to lose.
There are ample backups at other positions, but Matt Flynn cannot and will not lead the Pack to the promised land.
Still, it is demoralizing to a championship-caliber team to lose at home to a division rival, and I don't believe the Pack will choose to roll over.
If and when the Pack gets to 16-0—and I believe they will—I'll be back to give you my slant on their playoff game(s).
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