Lions Den: Lions Face Packers for NFC North Title

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Well, they have their chance. The Detroit Lions (9-6) will take on the Green Bay Packers (9-6) on Sunday at Ford Field at 8:30 p.m. for the NFC North division title and a home playoff game.

There are plenty of scenarios for the Lions to make the playoffs, but the easiest one is to win. However, if the Lions were to lose to the Packers on Sunday, they would need some help from the New York Giants. Detroit would earn a playoff spot if the Giants beat the Washington Redskins.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has struggled since injuring his finger against the Bears in week 14, turning the ball over a total of five times. Also, Stafford has not thrown a touchdown pass in two straight games, giving Lions fans some doubts about the quarterback’s health going into the final regular season game. Stafford threw for 260 yards and an interception against the Cowboys last week, but he will need to improve drastically if he wants to lead Detroit to a NFC North title.

The Lions had a shocking week on the ground against the Cowboys last week. Zach Zenner rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns on the day. However, 64 of those yards came in the first half, as Detroit struggled to get much of anything going on offense in the second half. Dwayne Washington added seven carries for 22 yards against the Cowboys, but Zenner should see a majority of the touches against the stout Packers front seven.

Detroit’s passing game has lagged over the past few games, as the unit has failed to score a touchdown in consecutive weeks. Tight end Eric Ebron led the Lions in receiving last week with eight catches for 93 yards. Golden Tate has been Detroit’s most consistent receiver this season, but he was only able to manage 58 yards on six catches last week. Stafford’s hand is a concern heading into this game and if Stafford struggles, the receivers will struggle.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league right now, and the Lions defense needs to be ready to play because he can torch a defense if given time to throw. He threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns last week against the Minnesota Vikings. One thing that could help the Lions is the return of star cornerback Darius Slay. Slay is listed as questionable for Sunday night, but he would be a big boost for Detroit’s defense considering he has 13 pass deflections and two interceptions on the season.

The Packers don’t rely on the run game too much, but they do like to use their running backs to catch passes out of the backfield. The Packers combined for 40 rushing yards last week, but running backs combined to catch five passes. Detroit’s linebackers will be under pressure to cover these running backs out of the backfield.

Green Bay has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams give Rodgers a lot of options to go to. Cobb is listed as questionable for Sunday night, but Nelson and Adams will be good to go. Nelson exploded last week against the Vikings, catching nine passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Adams added four catches, 44 yards and a touchdown as well. If Slay ends up playing tomorrow, he will most likely be tasked with covering Nelson for the majority of the game.


Keys to the game

  • Detroit’s passing game is going to be huge in this game. The unit has struggled over the past couple of weeks, and if they can’t move the ball, the team will struggle.
  • Detroit’s linebackers will need to have their best game this season. Green Bay likes to use running backs as receivers, and if the Lions’ linebackers can’t contain them, Detroit will struggle to win this game.
  • Detroit’s secondary needs to be excellent on Sunday night. Detroit’s secondary will be improved with Slay back, but the unit as whole will need to play fantastic if Detroit wants to win.

Prediction

Detroit is at home, but the Packers are one of the hottest teams in football right now, and the Lions struggle against the Packers, as Rodgers is 12-3 against them. Green Bay will win this game, but the Lions will sneak in the playoffs with a wildcard spot.

Packers 31, Lions 21.

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