The Packers are locked but not neccessarily loaded for the playoffs. Sunday night's 35-21 victory over the Bears sealed up the regular season goals, NFC North Division title secure, first round bye accomplished and home field advantage throughout was wrapped with one game left to play. Mike McCarthy doesn't want to hear about a meaningless game, he said on Monday our goal is to finish 15-1 and sweep the division with the Detroit Lions coming to Lambeau on New Year's Day. The Lions are still in a battle for the number five seed, currently a game up on Atlanta after the Monday night result, a New Orleans 45-16 beatdown. A Detroit win keeps them at number five, if they lose at Lambeau while the Falcons finish with a win at home over Tampa Bay, their wild card positions will flip. So how will McCarthy line up the Pack Sunday? He's had two opportunities to tweak his roster in the past. In 2007, the Packers were the number two seed at 13-3 and with the Lions coming to town, McCarthy de-activated several front liners, Charles Woodson, Aaron Kampman, Ryan Pickett, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The Packers routed Detroit 34-13 and they dominated Seattle after the bye week 42-20 in the snow before getting the deep freeze from the Giants in the horrible NFC title game loss in overtime. In 2009, the Packers had the number five seed secured with a 10-5 record, knowing they would face the Arizona Cardinals to wrap up the regular season and in the Wild Card round the following week. McCarthy went all in, playing everybody, while the Cardinals rested key players. It resulted iin a 33-7 rout and set the stage for the crazy, overtime loss in Phoenix the following week, 51-45. My guess is this week, anyone nursing even the slightest injury, right down to a runny nose, will sit it out. That means Bryan Bulaga with his kneecap sprain, James Starks with his problematic ankle bruise, obviously Greg Jennings with his knee sprain, Ryan Pickett perhaps with his concussion, all scratched. Front liners like Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji will dress, play a little to break a sweat, and take a seat. Detroit will probably go all out with their starters because they'd much rather head to New York or Dallas, than New Orleans in the wild card round.
The NFL Network announces the Pro Bowl squad tonight. Aaron Rodgers garnered the most votes of any player in the league during the fan balloting and several other Packers led at their respective positions, from Clay Matthews to John Kuhn, a testament to the power of the Packer, ballot stuffing nation. I've got just four Packers heading to Hawaii to represent the NFC, Rodgers will be the starting quarterback, joined by Drew Brees and Eli Manning. Clay Matthews' sack numbers are down but his impact plays are up. In short order, his reputation will carry him to another Pro Bowl at outside linebacker. I think Charles Woodson will return, with a conference leading 7 interceptions and a first timer getting some due, center Scott Wells. He was the Sports Illustrated all-pro snapper at the halfway point of the season and he's done a solid job holding the unit together with musical chairs being played around him all season. That would be quite an honor for a guy benched for Jason Spitz just two years ago, and nearly cut. The injury to Greg Jennings will hurt his chances in a very talented receiver pool in the NFC, Tramon Williams was an alternate last year and is on the cusp, Jermichael Finley hasn't put up the big numbers like Jimmy Graham and the rest of the defense will be passed over because they rank next to last statistically.