EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Mike McCarthy has a plan if his team locks up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with regular-season games remaining and 16-0 still a possibility.
The Green Bay Packers coach just wasn’t saying Sunday.
In the wake of his team’s 38-35 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium – a victory that clinched a playoff berth and would clinch the NFC North title if the New Orleans Saints beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday night – McCarthy was asked if he had any doubt that his team is capable of finishing the regular season without a loss.
“You’re going to have to ask me that when we have homefield advantage, which is the goal after the division,” McCarthy replied. “I’ll be ready, locked and loaded to talk about it.”
With the win, the Packers (12-0) kept a two-game lead over NFC West champion San Francisco (10-2) in the race for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
After their 26-0 win over the St. Louis Rams Sunday, the 49ers have games remaining at NFC West opponents Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis and a Monday, Dec. 19 game against Pittsburgh at home. They’re currently 8-1 against NFC teams, win their only losses coming to Dallas and Baltimore. The Packers are 10-0 against NFC teams with home games against Oakland, Chicago and Detroit and a road game at Kansas City remaining.
“From my perspective – and I clearly understand the 16-0 gig and the importance of it – (the) 38-35 (final score), that’s why you stay focused on what’s at hand, because every week it’s going to be a challenge,” McCarthy said. “We’re 12-0 and we need to get to 13-0. We have other goals that are in front of us before we can even attain (an undefeated season). I hope we’re in position to talk about it, but right now we really aren’t. Not to be cliché, but when you play in this league you better line up and get ready even on a good week of preparation, make sure you stay on point.”
It’s possible that McCarthy could choose to rest key starters to avoid the risk of injury to them in games that are meaningless in the standings. Then again, after winning two must-win games to close the regular season last year just to make the playoffs, perhaps McCarthy will choose to keep the pedal to the metal.
From the sound of it, McCarthy has his mind made up. He just won’t say.
His players weren’t saying, either.
“We want to win games across the board. If we happen to sit people, the guys on the field better go out and make plays and win the game,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “No matter who’s playing, who’s not, I think the coaches and staff will be smart with whatever the decision is – if we come to that situation. We’re a long ways away from worrying about it now, and I think you’re asking the wrong person.”
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