Even with the Green Bay Packers set to compete for nothing but pride in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions, MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers has no intention of sitting out the final game of the 2021 regular season.
The Packers rumbled to a 37-10 blowout victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and clinched the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC for a second consecutive year, which prompted immediate speculation in the postgame about whether the Packers would rest their starters in the regular-season finale given they have nothing to gain by playing them against the Lions.
Rodgers’ lingering toe injury also seemingly gave the Packers a greater reason to consider resting their starting quarterback. With a first-round bye secured, they could hold him out of Week 18’s matchup and give him nearly three weeks to focus on the health of his broken pinky toe in order to ensure he is in top condition for their first postseason game on either January 22 or January 23.
Rodgers, however, quickly put the guesswork to bed and made it clear that he will be playing against the Lions on Sunday after his best week yet with his toe injury.
“I don’t think I need to play just like I don’t think I need to practice all the time,” Rodgers said in the postgame on January 2. “But I do enjoy practicing, and this is the first game that my toe got through the game without any issues. No pregame painkiller shot, so I’m feeling good. I’m happy about it. There was definitely a time a few weeks ago when we started to project out and think if we can get the 1-seed, it could be two-plus weeks of rest, but I’m gonna play next week and I expect Davante (Adams) to play and our guys to play. We look forward to finishing our season on a high note and then getting the bye.”
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Rodgers Suggest He Won’t Play Full Game vs. Lions
Rodgers won’t be sitting out the Packers’ final game of the regular season, but the 38-year-old quarterback also might not play for an extended period of time against the Lions next Sunday.
During January 4’s appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers discussed the “double-edged sword” of the to-play-or-not-to-play dilemma and emphasized the importance of maintaining the Packers’ momentum on offense for the postseason, even if it means not playing the entire game against the Lions. Here’s what he told McAfee:
The plan is to play. It’s a double-edged sword that often the media can use either way. If we go out and play, we risk injury obviously, but there’s risk every single time you step on the field with injury, what’s the point of doing it? If you go out and play great in the divisional round, (it’s), ‘Well of course, it’s because they played last week!’ But like in (2011), we were 14-1, a lot of us sat out the last game, Matt Flynn went out and made a bunch of money balling out. Shoutout to Matt Flynn, love Matty, one of my favorite all-time teammates. Then we went out in the divisional round and played the Giants and made a bunch of mistakes — turned the ball over, fumbled, gave up a Hail Mary. And everybody’s like, ‘Well, that’s because they didn’t play Week 17 against the Lions.’ I don’t necessarily believe in that, but I feel like there’s something to momentum. … I’m a believer in it, and we’ve been playing a lot better on offense the last half of the season, and I think it’s important for us to keep that momentum going and go out and play. I’m not sure how long that means to play, but I know there’s a lot of us who would like to go out there and play and play well.
Sunday Could Feature Jordan Love vs. Tim Boyle
Even if Rodgers plays for the first half of Sunday’s finale against the Lions, there is a decent chance the second half could feature a battle between Jordan Love and Tim Boyle — who have both spent time as Packers backup quarterbacks behind Rodgers.
Boyle served as the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons and moved to Detroit this past offseason after the team declined to retain him in free agency. He has since been installed as the primary backup behind Lions starter Jared Goff and gotten the opportunity to start three games, including each of the Lions’ last two games while Goff has been nursing a left knee injury.
In three starts, Boyle has completed 64.9% of his passes (61 of 94) for 526 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions for the Lions. Meanwhile, Love also got an opportunity to start this year when Rodgers was stuck on the reserve/COVID-19 list for Week 9’s bout with the Kansas City Chiefs and went 19 of 34 passing for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss.
It might not change anything about the Packers’ quarterback future, but it would still be interesting to see a head-to-head matchup between two passers who have each spent more than a season learning behind Rodgers.