When the NFL schedule was released in the spring, this matchup between the LIons and Packers was teaming with possibilities. Perhaps it would even determine the NFC North title or a battle for a wild-card berth.
What a difference seven months can make.
The Lions (5-10) play the Packers (6-8-1) at Green Bay at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Ending the season on a win is dandy but not all that important in the long run for either team.
Don’t tell that to the players, though.
“They’re a good football team. Anytime you go to Lambeau Field, it’s a big challenge. I think they’re a talented, young football team and we’ll have our work cut out for us,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Obviously, Aaron (Rodgers) is doing a great job this year playing at a high level and scoring a bunch of points. As an offense, that’s a big challenge for us, knowing that we’re going to have to go out there and score some points. And then obviously, a big challenge for our defense anytime you’re facing a guy like Aaron and a team like that.”
Five things to watch on Sunday:
1. Stafford has been limited in practice for a few weeks with a bad back, but was a full go this week. It’s been a tough season for the quarterback who is in his 10th season. “I just wish we won more games, that’s the biggest thing. I’m fighting for these guys in this locker room. The guys are working to try and win every Sunday,’’ Stafford said. “When you don’t win, everybody feels it. We wish we could and are doing everything we can to try and win, we just haven’t done it enough this season. So, that’s tough to swallow.”
2. The Lions have gotten some quality run production out of Zach Zenner in recent weeks. Give him the ball, let him show what he can do. LeGarrette Blount has been good in spurts but not consistent. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter takes pride in the fact that they have improved the run game this year. “We kind of came into the year saying, ‘Boy, we have to run the ball better. We have to run the ball more effectively.’ We made a big point of emphasis on that, and by and large, I think we did a lot of those things,’’ Cooter said. “Not that it’s a done deal at this point, but I think we made some strides running, blocking, all those things.’’
3. Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams is expected to play despite being on the injured list this week. He burnt Detroit’s defense for 140 receiving yards and a touchdown in the first game against the Packers. Expect Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to be prepared, but he could have his hands full with the Pro Bowl wide receiver.
4. The Lions pass rush has been mostly anemic all season, but they did sack Rodgers four times in the first game. Pressure is key on Rodgers who has had a good season statistically, but just hasn’t been able to pull out the wins on his own. Amazingly he’s thrown just two interceptions while tossing 25 touchdowns and 4.416 yards.
5. It’s a nothing game but it’s one of just 16 so the Lions should be prepared. Some weeks it looks like they are, some weeks not. The Lions and Packers played on Oct. 7 so it’s not like they don’t know what to expect. The Lions won that one 31-23 at home. HIstorically Detroit has been lousy at Green Bay where they are 12-32-3 at Lambeau Field.
PREDICTION: Packers 24, Lions 16