It’s the Packers and Lions on Sunday Night Football in a showdown for the NFC North, and as far as regular season football goes it doesn’t get much better than this. The Lions have struggled their way to a tough 9-6 while the Packers have come racing back from a sluggish and uninspired start to win five in a row and also hover at 9-6.
This isn’t exactly where the Lions wanted to end their season, but they’ll take it nonetheless.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 27, 2016
This isn’t the “go big or go home” dramatic showdown the NFL is painting though. The Lions or Packers can have a playoff spot waiting for them no matter who wins or loses, and it all depends on what happens in the Redskins and Giants game.
If the Giants beat the Redskins and the Redskins fall to 8-7-1, the Lions (should they lose) will end with a record of 9-7 and still have a better record. Should the Packers lose they’ll also have the 9-7 record and still end above the Redskins, so if the Giants do beat the Redskins this game will have much less of a do or die feel about it. That said, the Giants may be the weakest playoff team in the NFC picture right now, so beating the Redskins who have everything to play more isn’t a sure thing.
Whether or not they have a playoff spot waiting, both teams want to win this game. It’s a divisional rivalry and will determine potential home field advantages for the playoffs.
The Packers come into this game as potentially the hottest team in football, riding a five game winning streak and an MVP caliber season by Aaron Rodgers. They’ve got all the right mojo with them and they’ve even managed to salvage a running game from a roughed up backfield.
Ben Sirmans on RB Ty Montgomery: Anything he's asked to do, he wants to be perfect at it. Wants to be the best at what he's doing.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 29, 2016
The Cowboys ran all over the Lions last week, putting up 164 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The Packers have nowhere near the rushing talent of the Cowboys, but the Cowboys exposed a huge hole in this Lions defense and that’s the physicality of the Lions front seven. The Lions secondary has been pretty good this year, so even Aaron Rodgers may have some difficulty throwing against them. The Packers job becomes exponentially easier if they can get their running backs going.
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The Lions need to get more explosive on offense if they want to win this game and go anywhere in the post season. They don’t have the running game to control the ball and dominate time of possession and they’re passing game is just enough to move the ball but not enough to consistently score with it.
Matt Stafford ➡️ Golden Tate = ????????????
Is there a better QB-WR partnership in the NFL right now? https://t.co/b1DQSsMkXl
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) December 5, 2016
If the Lions are going to win, they’re going to need to get the bigger plays downfield. Stafford’s averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, ranked 15th among NFL quarterbacks. Part of that could be due to shoddy offensive line protection (Stafford’s been sacked 35 times, 9th most in the league). If the Lions want to win on Sunday, they need to protect Stafford better and give him time to make the bigger plays.
The primetime and home field advantage levels the playing field for the Lions a bit, but they’re still the clear underdogs coming into this matchup.
Green Bay Packers: 31
Detroit Lions: 24
The Packers have the better offense by far but have shown that they have a vulnerable defense. If the Lions can hold the Packers to under/around 20 points, I think they can win this game but with how hot the Packers have been I don’t think any team in the NFL could hold them to that.