On the cusp of their first division title in more than 20 years, the Detroit Lions will try to snap their 22-game road losing streak to the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field. The Lions(11-4) last claimed a division title in 1993, when it was the NFC Central. But the last time they beat the Packers at Lambeau was 1991, the very last year they won a playoff game. That was also the last year the Lions won 12 games.
The Packers (11-4) are looking for their fourth straight division crown, and are the odds-on favorite to do so with Las Vegas pegging them as 7.5-point favorites. Other than history being on its side, Green Bay has been dominant at home this season with the only undefeated home record in the NFC.
Whoever finishes second in the division will still advance to the postseason, but they’ll need to win on the road in order to advance. If the playoff standings hold steady, Detroit would earn an extra bye week and home game, while Green Bay would take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
Thanks to one the NFL’s best defenses, the Lions won the first meeting of the season, 19-7, back in Week 3 by holding quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 162 yards passing and one touchdown and running back Eddie Lacy to 36 yards on the ground.
Sacked twice, it proved to the second-worst game of Rodgers otherwise MVP-caliber season. He’s second in the league with a 111.0 passer rating and 36 touchdowns to five interceptions. After that loss, the Packers would also go on 10-2 tear, scoring 30 or more points six times.
The Detroit defense held one of the most potent offenses in the league to a mere seven points despite three turnovers from the offense, including two interceptions by quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Though he’s thrown for more than 4,000 yards for the fourth straight year, Stafford hasn’t been the gunslinger Lions fans have grown accustomed to. In the three previous years, Stafford’s totaled a minimum of 634 pass attempts but his 561 attempts this season are the lowest in a full season since his rookie year. The drop in passes has helped Stafford cut down on turnovers, and with only 12 interceptions this season Stafford’s on pace to set a new career benchmark for a single season.
With top receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush each battling nagging injuries throughout the season, receiver Golden Tate and Joquie Bell have provided significant relief for Stafford.
Bell leads the team with 800 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, including a 17-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown scamper in last week’s 20-14 victory over Chicago that set up the North title game. Bell is also third on the squad with 34 receptions for another 322 yards.
Arguably the best free agent signing of the offseason, Tate emerged at the start of the season as Stafford’s No. 1 target while Johnson dealt with an ankle injury. He’s now tops on the team with 96 receptions for 1,286 yards and four touchdowns.
However the Lions should have their full arsenal Sunday. Johnson, despite the injury, has already racked up his fifth straight 1,000-yard season and he’s listed as probable. Bush has slowly worked his way back into the offense the last three games, and scored his second touchdown of the season against Chicago last week.
Start Time: 4:25 P.M. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Betting Odds: Green Bay -7.5
Over/Under: 47.5 points
Prediction: Detroit over Green Bay, 23-20