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A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE

Dec. 19, 2011
Dec. 19, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 19, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
PRO FOOTBALL
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
  • The bowls are upon us, and what's the most exciting matchup of the postseason? (Hint: not the BCS title game.) It's the Fiesta Bowl, in which prolific Brandon Weeden and the unstoppable offense of Oklahoma State meet the sublime skills of Andrew Luck and Stanford

BOWL PREVIEW 2011
PRO BASKETBALL
COLLEGE BASKETBALL
The Year In Sports Media
Departments

A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE

Hey, the unbeaten Packers have worries too: Should they push for perfection, or rest up for the playoffs—and risk losing their edge?

Last Thursday night the members of the Packers' offensive line commandeered a table in the back of the dining room at Chives Restaurant in Suamico, Wis. The bustling bistro has become a destination for team gatherings, and when the linemen stood to leave, other diners broke into applause for all that the Packers have done—and might still do. "That's pretty normal," says rookie tackle Derek Sherrod. "They're not shy about showing us love, and we're playing hard just knowing that they're backing us."

This is an article from the Dec. 19, 2011 issue

But the Packers must decide if throttling back on their effort is what will eventually make them—and their rabid fans—happiest. Green Bay ran its record to 13--0 on Sunday with a 46--16 dismantling of the Raiders at Lambeau Field. If the Packers win at Kansas City this week, or if the 49ers lose to the Steelers, Green Bay will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs, leaving Mike McCarthy with a decision that coaches before him, like Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick, have faced: Play the starters and chase an undefeated season or rest key players until the playoffs. After losing receiver Greg Jennings to a sprained left knee against the Raiders and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and running back Brandon Saine to concussions, the potential danger of costly injuries was thrown into sharp relief.

At the opening of training camp McCarthy told his players, "We're hunting [Super Bowl] 46. We are going to hunt every single week." He continued that theme after Sunday's win; when asked if he worried that Rodgers might absorb too many hits, McCarthy countered, "We don't play scared."

Last season the Packers won the Super Bowl with a staggering 16 players on injured reserve. Green Bay is unflinching when it comes to its faith in its depth, but McCarthy must navigate the line between bold and reckless.

With the final three games away at Kansas City and then home against division rivals Chicago and Detroit, the Packers could make history in a town that loves its team like no other. "Pressure is a privilege," says cornerback Charles Woodson, quoting the tennis legend Billie Jean King. "Who wouldn't want to be where we are?"

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GREAT BEGINNINGS

The Packers are the eighth NFL team to start a season 13--0. Here's what those fast starts led to for their predecessors.

View this article in the original magazine

TEAMRECORDPLAYOFF RESULT
1934 BEARS13--0LOST NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
'72 DOLPHINS14--0WON SUPER BOWL VII
'98 BRONCOS14--2WON SUPER BOWL XXXIII
2005 COLTS14--2LOST IN AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
'07 PATRIOTS16--0LOST SUPER BOWL XLII
'09 COLTS14--2LOST SUPER BOWL XLIV
'09 SAINTS13--3WON SUPER BOWL XLIV
PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (PACKERS)LESS WILL MEAN MORE Packers regulars like running back Ryan Grant (25), who ran for two TDs against Oakland, may see more sideline time.