The Detroit Lions face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday for the NFC North championship at home in the regular season finale.
In one of the most important games in recent franchise history, the Detroit Lions face the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s regular season finale in a de facto NFC North championship game with a chance to earn a division title and a home playoff game for the first time since 1993.
After a 4-2 start, the Packers lost four straight games to drop behind in the NFC North race, but a five-game winning streak has them tied with the Lions at 9-6 heading into the final game of the season.
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Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers. His 36-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio earned him yet another Pro Bowl roster spot. DaVante Adams emerged alongside Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to form one of the league’s top wide receiver units, with Nelson and Cobb on pace to finish the season with at least 10 touchdowns and 1,000 receiving yards apiece.
The running game has needed to get creative in recent weeks, as Eddie Lacy and James Starks have both missed time with injuries, leaving converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery as the Packers’ primary rusher. He averages six yards a carry but has been wildly consistent, gashing the Chicago Bears for 162 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago before gaining 23 yards on nine carries against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers have struggled to defend the pass, especially with top cornerback Sam Shields on injured reserve, ranking in the bottom third in the league. They have had more success stopping the run, keeping opponents under 100 yards per game.
The Lions come in on a two-game losing streak and without any remaining wiggle room in the playoff race. Matthew Stafford has visibly struggled in the past two weeks, although it is debatable whether or not it has anything to do with the finger injury he suffered on his throwing hand against the Chicago Bears three weeks ago. Detroit’s ground game saw a little spark with Zach Zenner‘s performance on Monday, but with Theo Riddick added to injured reserve and still no word on a potential return for Ameer Abdullah, the Lions will be depending on Zenner and rookie Dwayne Washington to carry the load.
Defensively, the Lions’ defense showed how vulnerable it was on Monday as Dez Bryant threw a touchdown pass and the Cowboys rang up 42 points, breaking an eight-game streak 20-points-or-fewer streak for the Detroit defense. Without Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs, the Lions’ secondary has been subpar at best and the front office has been frantically trying to find replacements. DeAndre Levy is finally playing consistent minutes, but Detroit’s pass rush is still wildly inconsistent, in large part due to Ezekiel Ansah still dealing with lingering injuries and the team’s lack of depth at defensive end.