Having won their first 13 games, and with three mediocre opponents left, the Green Bay Packers will try to do something no other NFL team has done since the 1972 Miami Dolphins: Go undefeated.
The Packers will need to decide whether to stick with their stars and other regulars or rest them to prepare for the playoffs and, hopefully, another Super Bowl title.
Even within their own ranks, there is uncertainty.
“There’s risk every time you take the field,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re going to keep playing the way we’re playing.”
Linebacker Clay Matthews sees the value of playing it safe.
“We’re here to win ballgames, but at the same time you don’t want to compromise people’s health when it comes down to trying to remain undefeated when you have your goals locked up,” he said during a recent interview.
Already, there’s a whiff of trouble ahead. Top receiver Greg Jennings will miss two to three weeks with a left knee sprain but is expected back for the playoffs, and two players sustained concussions in last Sunday’s rout of Oakland.
A win Sunday against 5-8 Kansas City, which just fired coach Todd Haley, will give the Packers home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Once they’ve guaranteed that scenario, the challenge becomes how to approach the postseason. The Packers’ last two opponents, both at Lambeau Field, are division rivals Chicago and Detroit, who are both desperate to grab a wild-card playoff spot.
“You don’t win a Super Bowl by being scared,” Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “You just play.”