Packers make playoffs, could face Cardinals back-to-back

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers pulled it off, rallying from a 4-4 start to make the playoffs.

Their reward could be back-to-back games at defending NFC champion Arizona, beginning with Sunday's regular-season finale and followed by a potential playoff game against the same team in the same place the following week.

It's a unique challenge for the Packers (10-5). Coaches must decide if they should go all-out for a victory Sunday or rest key players and keep some plays under wraps in case they play the Cardinals again.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn't tipping his hand.

"We're not going to change the way we approach games, the way we play games, and I'm sure our opponent's not going to, this week or next week," McCarthy said. "To me, I think a lot is being made of this, but it's also part of game-planning. It serves me no good to sit here in the best interests of our football team and discuss those things today."

Besides, McCarthy said, teams always have more plays available in their weekly game plans than they end up actually using in a game.

"I think any NFL football team in all three phases could play a doubleheader from a game-planning standpoint if they needed to," McCarthy said. "I'm not worried about showing anything. You play football games to win games, and that's not going to change."

And McCarthy wouldn't discuss the possibility of resting starters Sunday.

"You can lessen the risk factor of injury by trying to save a certain individual, and I'm aware of all that," McCarthy said. "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."

McCarthy did rest players such as Charles Woodson, Aaron Kampman, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings in the 2007 regular-season finale against Detroit. But unlike 2007, the Packers' playoff picture isn't yet clear. And the Packers had a first-round bye in 2007.

"I think it's a totally different situation," McCarthy said.

Players figure they might as well play to win.

"We're full speed ahead," Woodson said. "We're looking to make our splash in the playoffs. We have an opportunity. There's no reason to let up now."

Driver said getting win No. 11 was more important than holding back against the Cardinals.

"I think that's where you have to stand because you don't know where you're going to play," Driver said. "You can't sit guys down. It's really up to Mike anyway, but if guys want to play, I think he should let us play. We've got to keep our offense right."

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Linebacker Nick Barnett wasn't sure how coaches would approach the game.

"If we would show all our stuff, don't show our stuff, I don't know," Barnett said. "I think we're going there to win games. That's always been our goal, bottom line. So either we see them twice or once, it doesn't matter. We're going there to play a game and to win."

Should the Packers end up playing the Cardinals in the first round, McCarthy did seem to rule out the possibility of staying in Arizona to practice. He said keeping players in their weekly routine is more valuable than trimming some travel.

"It's a three-hour trip," McCarthy said. "I've coached on the West Coast. That's a different situation, flying from San Francisco to Philadelphia and then going home and coming back and going down to Miami the next week. That's a lot different than I think our situation (is) going out to Arizona."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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