The Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers will battle it out for the NFC North crown at Ford Field on Sunday.
Both teams know that the loser of the contest could miss out on the playoffs altogether, pending the Washington Redskins’ result against the New York Giants.
Should Jay Gruden’s men triumph, then it will be a case of a straight shootout between the Lions and the Packers for the final place in the NFC Conference playoffs.
The Lions would have thought they would have secured at least a place in the playoffs after beating the Chicago Bears three weeks ago to record their ninth win of the campaign. However back-to-back defeats have put their post-season berth in jeopardy and now face the prospect of beating the in-form Packers, albeit on home soil, to extend their term into January and the wildcard round.
Green Bay were looking down and out after being hammered by the Redskins in week 11, but have rebounded by winning their last five matches on the spin to oust the Lions from the fourth seed. However, it could all come crashing down for Mike McCarthy’s men unless they maintain their fine form at Ford Field, which has usually been a happy-hunting ground for them in the past, including a victory on a Hail Mary pass last season.
The game should have a playoff atmosphere to it, with neither side being able to rest starters or take their foot off the pedal. The Packers produced a strong performance earlier in the campaign to defeat Detroit and that tie-breaker has proven to be crucial at this late stage in the term.
Jim Caldwell’s men have been in their fair share of close contests this term and that could see them edge out the Packers, but should Aaron Rodgers continue his excellent form the match will be over by the fourth quarter. Therefore backing Green Bay are a solid option at -165 with BetOnline.
Detroit would have been thinking about the possibility of securing a first-round bye in the playoffs after overcoming the Bears in a tight contest, lifting them to a 9-4 record. Caldwell’s men had the chance to make a statement by beating the New York Giants in their own backyard. However, they put forward a poor performance to succumb to a 17-6 defeat as quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled for rhythm throughout the match.
The Lions’ offense has crumbled over the second half of the season due to injuries to running back Theo Riddick and Stafford, who has had issues with his hand. Meanwhile, Marvin Jones has faded dramatically down the stretch after enjoying a fine start to the campaign.
Zach Zenner almost brought his team to life with a spirited display in the first half against the Dallas Cowboys last week, but Caldwell and the coaching staff went away from the back, resulting in their failure to score after half time.
They cannot afford another inept offensive display against the Packers as Rodgers will be able to carve open their defense with relative ease should he continue his excellent form. Detroit have stout players on their defensive line, but they will need to have an outstanding game to best Green Bay’s offensive line and the movement of Rodgers in the pocket.
Ezekiel Ansah will need to rediscover his form of the 2015 campaign to dominate, while Darius Slay and Glover Quin have to have strong outings in the secondary to keep the Packers’ potent offense at bay.
The Packers looked poised to miss out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season midway through the current term. However, the club have rallied with five wins on the spin to overhaul the Lions into the fourth seed, and now just need to complete the job by defeating their rivals on the road.
Despite his greatness there were plenty of questions raised during the early stages of the season when Rodgers and his offense were struggling for form, resulting in defeats to inferior sides such as the Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Redskins.
Since their hammering at FedEx Field, Rodgers has returned to the form of the 2014 season when he was crowned MVP for the second time in his career. Jordy Nelson has also enjoyed a resurgence, now fully healthy after missing the last campaign when he tore his ACL. The duo’s connection has tormented defenses and pulled their side back into contention to win the Super Bowl.
Should they continue to fire on Sunday they will be able to cut open the Lions defense and put points on the board that could well be enough to guide their side into the playoffs.
Green Bay’s defense was maligned for their poor form following their crushing defeat to the Redskins. And although they staged a minor revival against the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans, they did concede a combined 52 points against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
The unit could well be the fatal flaw that costs the Packers either this Sunday or deeper down the road in the playoffs. McCarthy will be hopeful that his side can hold the Lions at bay for one match to keep them alive for a wildcard berth.
Green Bay are the form side heading into the contest and due to their familiarity with the Lions, they will be keen to expose old wounds. Rodgers has been at the peak of his powers in recent weeks and should that continue at Ford Field then the Packers should ease into the post-season in the fourth seed.
Caldwell’s men have talent on their roster, but have always struggled to overcome the Packers. They will need a solid gameplan to best Rodgers and his offense, but if they are flawless in their execution there could be a path to victory should they take their chances when Stafford has the ball. It’s in the balance like many playoff matches are, but given what is at stake the home side might just edge it.
Detroit Lions to beat Green Bay Packers
Sunday 1st January 2017 20:30 ET (Monday 2nd January 1:30 GMT)
Once or twice per month we will provide you with the latest sports tips and keep you updated about the biggest events.