Although Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy and Arizona Cardinals’ coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t tip their hands about this weekend’s matchup, it doesn’t look like either team will be unleashing their full arsenal, since the two teams will likely meet again the following week in the playoffs.
McCarthy, however, spoke to the importance of continuing the Packers’ momentum.
“Every game plan that you have going into a game, you don’t run every one of your plays. I think any NFL football team in all three phases could play a doubleheader from a game-planning standpoint if they needed to. I’m not worried about showing anything. You play football games to win games, and that’s not going to change,” he said.
“Momentum is a benefit. That’s obvious. We have a lot of momentum the second half of the season, so you want to keep that going. The health of your football team is really the one aspect you can’t control. Now, you can lessen the risk factor of injury by trying to save a certain individual, and I’m aware of all that. We’ve talked about all those different options and so forth, and those are things you look at and we’ll do what’s in the best interests of our football team.”
Whisenhunt seemed to indicate that the Cardinals game plan and the amount of time their starters played would depend on events leading up to the game. There’s a small chance the Cardinals could improve their seeding. For that to happen, the Vikings would have to lose to the Giants, Dallas would have to beat Philadelphia and the Cardinals would have to beat the Packers, in which case the Cardinals would own the second seed.
“We’ll go ahead and plan and prepare like we’re playing Green Bay (this weekend) for a game of significance,” Whisenhunt said. “If that changes, at least we’ve gotten a good week of preparation in because there is chance we could play a Saturday game (in the first round).”
A hard-fought game would be good for both teams entering the playoffs, but if the game gets out of hand one way or the other look for the junior varsity to take over. There’s no sense risking injuries to starters in an essentially meaningless game.
However, it’s clear both teams want to stay sharp and that will likely factor into the overall game plan as much as concerns about injuries and familiarity.
Remember the end of the 2007 season, when the New York Giants played the New England Patriots. The Patriots were playing for perfection. The Giants, who knew they were going to be a wild card, weren’t playing for anything. Still, the Giants played tough and kept their starters in until the end. The Giants lost 38-35, but it was ultimately a game that gave them the confidence to win three playoff games on the road and beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
The Giants entered the playoffs hitting on all cylinders and only made minor adjustments to their game plan when they faced the Patriots for the title.
That isn’t to suggest either the Cardinals or Packers are going on a Super Bowl run based solely on Sunday’s game, but there’s certainly something to be said for playing your A team and playing well in the final week of the regular season.