Green Bay Packers (9-6 SU, 8-6-1 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS)
NFL: Sunday, January 1 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
The Line: Green Bay Packers -3.5 Total: 49
The Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions conclude the NFL regular season with a matchup on Sunday Night Football to determine the winner of the NFC North. Depending on certain outcomes earlier in the day, this contest might only be for seeding purposes, but it’s still incredibly important to both sides. The Packers enter Ford Field on a five-game winning streak while the Lions have dropped two-in-a-row away from home.
What can I say? The guy wasn’t lying. Once again, Aaron Rodgers has proved all the doubters wrong. What was once a dead team with a record of 4-6 in late November is now fighting for its fifth division title in the past six years. The Bad Man himself has put the Green Bay Packers on his back to the tune of 4,128 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air, numbers that rank fourth and first in the NFL, respectively. In the absence of a competent rushing attack for much of the season, both Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael have filled holes in the backfield rather nicely as of late. Rodgers will still be asked to make the majority of plays, but it is helpful to have a security blanket in short yardage scenarios, whether near the first down marker or near the goal line.
The big #12 needed no help against the Vikings last Sunday, airing the ball out 38 times for 347 yards and four touchdowns, not to mention scrambling for a fifth. The Packers won 38-25, but there did appear to be some weaknesses in the secondary. Sam Bradford exposed Green Bay for 382 yards passing, so they’ll need to be extra careful of Matthew Stafford and his talented corps of receivers on Sunday.
Running Into a Brick Wall
For awhile there on Monday night, it appeared as if the Detroit Lions were going to trade blow for blow with the Dallas Cowboys, owners of the league’s best record. That lasted up until halftime, after which the visiting Lions were held scoreless for the remaining 30 minutes. Detroit’s running game showed signs of life early on as Zach Zenner was able to find room in the Dallas front seven on his way to 67 yards and two touchdowns. However, as the Cowboys continued to score, the Lions became more and more one-dimensional. Matthew Stafford looked off at times throwing the ball, something that will need to change if Detroit has any hope of defeating a red-hot Green Bay squad.
The NFL’s seventh-most prolific passer with 3,980 yards in total was just 26-of-46 for 260 yards and an interception in the Lions’ 42-21 defeat last week. Stafford found tight end Eric Ebron the most, connecting with him eight times for 93 yards. Detroit simply faced a more complete team. It’s hard to swallow especially at this point in the season, but all the Lions can do now is focus on the Packers. Hopefully they can get the referees on their side too, as some questionable calls were made on Monday that helped Dallas pull away in the second half.
The Packers are:
- 7-3 ATS in their last 10 meetings in Detroit
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall
The Lions are:
- 4-10 ATS in their last 14 vs. NFC North
Sunday night’s contest between Green Bay and Detroit could be the best primetime matchup of the season. Both teams would love nothing more than a victory over their division rivals, and this game should boil down to quarterback play. Whoever can sustain drives even when the pocket breaks down will take home the NFC North crown. I look for Aaron Rodgers to be that guy. Without the presence of a run game, Stafford might have a hard time carrying the weight for a full four quarters, even at home. Like I mentioned before, Ty Montgomery has really made an impact in the backfield for Green Bay, and he could be one of the pieces that pushes them comfortably into the playoffs.
The Pick: Green Bay Packers -3.5
Put simply, both offenses love to throw the ball. As a team, Detroit’s and Green Bay’s passing numbers actually don’t stack up as favorably league-wide as one might expect, but it’s clear that Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers are two of the game’s elite signal callers. Expect a shootout that could come down to the final few possessions as points will be scored early and often. The Over is 4-1 in the Packers’ last five road contests, so look for that streak to continue as we’ll see a similar game flow to that of their Week 3 matchup in Lambeau Field versus the Lions.