Facing Packers, not just another game for Lions; playoffs on line for both

Lions coach Dan Campbell

ALLEN PARK — Dan Campbell was pumped on Monday, more so than all season.

This is not just another week for the Detroit Lions. A win at Green Bay on Sunday (plus a Rams’ win over the Seahawks) would earn the Lions  a wild-card playoff spot,

For most of the season, not being too high or low is the mantra.

However, this is NFL Week 18. The Lions-Packers game has been flexed to the 8:20 p.m. slot on Sunday night. The Rams and Seahawks play at 4:25 p.m. so the Lions will know if they’re playing for a playoff spot or as a spoiler for the Packers.

“We tell them the magnitude. This is big, that’s what we do. This is big. It’s going to be fun. Let’s go. The intensity is up, this is a playoff game and they’re going to know that,’’ Campbell said. “That’s how we’re going into it.’’

The Lions (8-8) have won seven of their last nine, including a 41-30 thumping of the Bears on Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit’s winning stretch started with a 15-9 win over the Packers on Nov. 6 at Ford Field. In that game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for 291 yards but was intercepted three times (Kerby Joseph for two, Aidan Hutchinson for one). 

Since that Nov. 6 matchup, the Packers (8-8) have also won seven of nine, including a 41-17 dismantling of the Vikings (12-4) on Sunday.

“This defense is a very good defense, the special teams you saw it, they have the ability to make plays in their return game. Offensively, they’re playing better. They are. We talked about it as a staff, this is a better football team than we played the first time,’’ Campbell said. “Then the’ve got Aaron Rodgers, we all know he’s one of the best to play the game.’’

Campbell said the key to Green Bay’s recent success is they are clicking in all three phases and that’s what makes them dangerous.

However, the Lions are not the same team either.

“We’re better too, we’ve made a jump as well. We’re better too, there’s not question. The win started us in the right direction the last time we played them and we really haven’t looked back,’’ Campbell said “This is one of those games you look forward to being a part of, as a player, as a  coach, the fans are going to love this.I just think it’s great.

Even if the Lions don’t get that playoff berth, playing a meaningful game in Week 18 is part of the growth of this young team.

“I think this is what you want them to taste. They need to feel this. They need to understand what this is because this has got to become the norm. This has to become the norm, and then once you get – you start to understand this. Then, it becomes – you’re playing for the Division, you’re playing for where your seeding is going to be. That’s coming,’’ Campbell said. “But right now, to get a taste of all this right now and be in the hunt, be in the run, I think is huge for our guys.”

Even with a win over the Packers, the Lions need the Rams to beat the Seahawks on Sunday to get into the playoffs. If the Rams don’t come through, the Lions can play spoiler to the Packers who just need a win over Detroit to make it to the postseason.

(Next up: Lion at Packers, at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday.)

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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