Starting wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) was targeted just once during the first half on Sunday but it was enough to knock him out of the game and land him in the locker room with a back injury. The severity of the issue was not immediately clear as the game continued Sunday, though MVS was initially listed as questionable to return before ultimately being ruled out for the day.
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How the injury plays out could have massive implications for the Packers playoff run, which raises questions as to why it was allowed to happen in the first place. Green Bay’s January 9 outing in Detroit was a throwaway regular season game with zero potential to impact the team’s postseason push, except through a meaningful player sustaining an injury. Unfortunately for the Packers, that’s exactly what happened.
MVS Injury Represents the Risk of Green Bay’s Week 18 Strategy
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to a team playing its starters in a meaningless game after it is already playoff-bound and locked into its seeding position.
The first is that there is no reason to play any players of consequence and risk unnecessary injury. Coaches should count their blessings, use the game as a de facto second bye week and protect the team’s Super Bowl chances.
The second approach, and the one the Packers employed, is to play most of the starters at least some. Doing so theoretically keeps those players sharp, provides continuity by maintaining their established routines and maintains a competitive edge for the biggest games of the year, which are yet to come.
Green Bay had the top seed in the NFC and a bye through Wildcard Weekend locked up before taking the field in Detroit. Had they clinched the No. 2 or No. 3 seed instead, maybe none of the starters play. But considering that sitting the starters would have meant two full weeks between games might have influenced head coach Matt LaFleur’s decision to run out quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receiver Davante Adams and the aforementioned MVS for the first half against the Lions.
For most of the players, it worked out fine — even paid off. Rodgers threw 2 touchdown passes before exiting the game, upping his MVP case. Adams overtook former Packers wideout Jordy Nelson, breaking the single-season franchise records for catches and receiving yards, then left the field unscathed.
But Valdes-Scantling, who has struggled with injury already this season, wasn’t so lucky.
Valdes-Scantling’s 2021 Season has Been Plagued by Misfortune
MVS has played in just 11 of 17 games for the Packers this year, starting in seven of those contests. He missed the other six outings for various reasons, ranging from injury to a bout with the coronavirus.
Valdes-Scantling injured his hamstring in a Week 3 road victory over the San Francisco 49ers and missed the next five games on Green Bay’s schedule. MVS was then forced to sit out the Packers’ Christmas Day matchup against the Cleveland Browns after he was designated to the reserve/COVID-19 list.
MVS will have the benefit of an off day next weekend to get whatever rehab he might need in preparation for the Packers’ first playoff game in the NFC Divisional Round. But the wideout is officially questionable for that matchup moving forward and the unfortunate reality is, he did not have to be.