Shawn (9-5, 6-7-1 ATS): Let me first suggest that the week I failed to make a prediction was the week this all turned around for the Green Bay Packers.
More importantly… HERE WE ARE. Or in the words of the recently dismissed Rex Ryan — “Here the fuck we are!”
Another week 17 showdown to determine the NFC North champ, and for the fourth year in the row that game includes the Packers. The Packers are 2-1 in those games.
Two years ago, the Packers and Lions played in week 17 for the division title and that game was in Lambeau Field. After aggravating a calf injury in the first half, Aaron Rodgers came back in the second and led the Packers to the win.
Though he is clearly a better player, like Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford has never gotten over the Packers in a big game. At least, not yet. He has put up some good games in the middle of the season, but never in a game of this magnitude.
Though it is in some ways counterintuitive, it was not a big surprise when Stafford responded to losing his all-world receiver Calvin Johnson by having the best season of his career. And he should love what he sees in the Packers’ secondary.
The Packers are the fourth-worst passing defense in the NFL, by yards. By touchdowns, only the CLEVELAND BROWNS have given up more passing touchdowns than the Packers. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a healthy 96 QBR against the Packers this season. The Packers have also been terrible at stopping fourth down conversions and have been poor in the fourth quarter. Those are two areas where Stafford and the Lions have excelled this season.
In other words, if the Packers leave this game to their defense, they are going to lose. Fortunately, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing offense is at the top of their game, and the Lions have a pass defense that is nearly as bad as the Packers. The Lions have given up only one less touchdown and quarterbacks are averaging a whopping 105 QBR against them.
So, the way to win this game for the Packers is pretty clear. They need to dominate the game with their offense and force the Lions to try to keep up. For the Lions, it is probably equally clear — cover the Packers’ receivers for the first two seconds, force Rodgers to hold onto the ball, and then get to him with your pass rush. It is the same formula that ruined the Packers’ offense for about a 16-game stretch from last season to this.
Hopefully, the Packers are better at every level of their offense — Rodgers, offensive line, receivers and running game, which makes pulling that off again unlikely.
In the end, ironically, when you look at the similarities of these two teams, it is whatever defense can make a play or two that could decide the game. It will make a difference if Darius Slay and DeAndre Levy play in the game, but I still think the Packers’ defense has more playmakers. Win the turnover battle, win the game.
I would not bet this game. I think this game could go either way. But I certainly would consider the Packers the favorite because of their five-game winning streak and the play of the offense during that run.
Packers 31, Lions 24
Monty (9-6, 5-8-2 ATS): Well, here we go!
I don’t know who would have ever seen this coming, except maybe the Detroit Lions, if they were being optimistic before the season started. Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions for the division, for the playoffs, for pride.
The Packers are 3-4 point favorites in this game and for good reason. Much like the Minnesota Vikings last week, which came in losers of five of their previous seven game, the Detroit Lions are going in the opposite direct that the Green Bay Packers are.
As you know, the Packers have won five in a row. The Lions have lost their last two.
Despite their current streak, I still wouldn’t sleep on the Lions. Prior to those two losses, they had won five in a row. Of course, when you look at those wins, perhaps the only one that was mildly impressive was the 28-13 win at New Orleans.
And let’s be honest. Beating the Saints this year isn’t any reason for congratulatory pats on the back.
Ever since he messed up one of the fingers on his throwing hand — three weeks ago against the Bears — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and his offense have had trouble scoring. They only put up six points in a loss to the Giants. They followed that with 21 against Dallas, but they were held scoreless in the second half.
That certainly isn’t an offense hitting on all cylinders. Probably of similar importance is that the Lions’ top running back — Theo Riddick — was put on injured reserve this weekend. The Lions don’t run much, but Riddick was a great weapon in the passing game.
It should also be mentioned that Stafford has historically played poorly against the Packers. More importantly, he’s only won twice.
On the other side, the Packers have an offense that is hitting on most cylinders. You know the story there. Aaron Rodgers has returned to MVP form and, when he actually utilizes it, Buffoon has himself a running game with Ty Montgomery.
To me, that’s all this game is about.
The Packers’ secondary is garbage. The Lions’ secondary is pretty much equal garbage.
So this game pretty much comes down to which defense mucks it up less. Personally, I feel the Packers have a better pass rush, so that should be the difference there.
Ultimately, this is about offense, though.
And with that said, my money is on the hot hand and that hand belongs to Aaron Charles Rodgers.
It could be a shootout. However, I think the nature of this contest will lead to plenty of conservative coaching decisions.
I like the Packers and I like them to beat the spread, but I can’t see them running away with it.
Packers 27, Lions 23