The Green Bay Packers travel to the Motor City to face the Lions with a first-round bye or even possibly the top seed in the NFC playoffs on the line. A Packers win and they clinch a bye in the first round and can finish no lower than the two seed. If the Packers win and Seattle defeats San Francisco Sunday night, the Packers would have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
The Packers enter the game at 12-3 while the Lions are 3-11-1 and have lost eight straight games. Last week, Green Bay defeated the Vikings in Minnesota 23-10 while Detroit lost to the Broncos in Denver 27-17.
Green Bay leads the all-time regular season series between these division rivals 99-72-7. The Pack also won both playoff meetings between these two teams in 1993 and 1994. The Packers edged the Lions 23-22 at Lambeau Field in Week 6.
Here is a look at the six key factors that will determine who wins the regular season finale on Sunday:
1. Don’t Suffer a Let Down
The Packers are coming off a short week after an emotional, division clinching win over the Vikings on Monday night. Add in the holiday this week and there was certainly less time than usual to prepare for Sunday’s game.
Simply put, the Packers can’t look past the slumping Lions and start thinking about the playoffs. The bye and possibly home field advantage would be a big help to this team, and they need to take care of business in Detroit on Sunday.
The question is how will the Lions come out on Sunday? Will they be hungry and eager to end the season on a winning note or will they be like the Packers were last season at Lambeau in the season finale against the Lions where they had one foot out the door almost from the opening kickoff?
Either way, the Packers need to come out and play their game and not let up on Sunday.
2. Confuse the Lions Rookie Quarterback
The Lions are starting rookie David Blough who took over as their quarterback on Thanksgiving against Chicago when both Matthew Stafford and Jeff Driskel went out with injuries.
Mike Pettine likes to mix up his blitz packages and coverages to confuse inexperienced quarterbacks. It worked well against the Giants and Redskins and should work again on Sunday.
Blough has completed only 56.6 percent of his passes and averages only 5.9-yards per attempt.
The Lions have also given up 42 sacks this season so Preston and Za’Darius Smith should be able to get some pressure on Blough to force more mistakes.
3. Throw the Football
The Lions pass defense is ranked dead last in the league, allowing 282.6 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.
This is the perfect opportunity for Aaron Rodgers to put up some good numbers and give some more confidence to his receiving corps. Players like Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow (questionable with an illness) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling should be able to make plays against Detroit’s shaky secondary.
Davante Adams should also have a big game against this unit with Darius Slay likely to get coverage duties on Adams. Adams needs 96 yards to earn his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.
This should be a good opportunity for Matt LaFleur to open his playbook and showcase the passing game a bit.
4. Contain the Detroit Running Game
The Lions expect Kerryon Johnson to be available. Johnson was their top running back before suffering an injury October 20 against the Vikings. He returned last week against Denver and picked up 42 yards on 10 carries.
Green Bay’s run defense has been better in recent weeks and needs to continue to contain Johnson and the other Detroit runners.
If they can do this, they can force Blough into third-and-long situations which will play right into the defense’s hands.
Kenny Clark, Tyler Lancaster and Dean Lowry have led the charge against the run along with Blake Martinez.
5. Don’t Let Kenny Golladay Get Deep
Detroit has a dangerous deep threat at wide receiver in Kenny Golladay. He is tied for the team lead with 62 receptions but averages a healthy 18 yards per catch and has 11 touchdowns on the season.
The Packers cannot allow Golladay to make splash plays against them. This will give Blough and the rest of the Lions offense confidence and momentum.
Green Bay’s starting cornerback duo of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King will have the assignment of slowing down the Lions top receiving weapon. They did an excellent job against Minnesota’s highly touted duo a week ago and must continue to play at the top of their games on Sunday.
6. Stay Healthy
With the playoffs approaching, the Packers cannot afford significant injuries to key players. Green Bay needs to exit this game with a win and needs to stay healthy. If they accomplish those two goals, the team will say mission accomplished.
The Lions may not give the Packers much of a fight much like Green Bay did a year ago at Lambeau in the season finale against Detroit. If the Packers can score early, the Lions may just fold. Either way, this is a game the Packers should win and really need to win to maximize their playoff chances.
Green Bay is the better team and they should win this game, but nothing comes too easily for this Packers club.
Packers 31, Lions 13
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