On Sunday, the Packers will play in yet another significant Week 17 game with playoff implications – this year versus the Detroit Lions. Both teams own a respectable 11-4 record and figure to be playing with at least some level of vengeance. The Packers were embarrassed offensively in September when Detroit ran away with a 19-7 victory at Ford Field. Meanwhile, the Lions have not won in Green Bay since 1991 – a streak that could be ended if Detroit continues to play at a Super Bowl level on defense.
On paper, Detroit’s defense poses the toughest challenge of any team that the Packers have faced during the regular season. The Lion defense ranks first versus the run and second overall, thanks to one of the league’s top defensive lines. Though the Lions’ D-line has historically created havoc for the Packer offense, it was their secondary that shut down Aaron Rodgers and the passing game in September.
To avoid a repeat of Week 3’s offensive disaster, Green Bay’s receivers need to do a better job of getting separation. Rookie receiver Davante Adams will need to bring an extra layer of focus into Sunday’s divisional showdown after being guilty of two drops last week. Adams hasn’t been able to pull defenders away from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb lately, which has forced Rodgers to buy additional time in the pocket and find receivers underneath.
On offense, the Lions have been just average – which is good for a very statistically average Packer defense. The Packers match up well versus Detroit’s offensive strengths, however, generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and taking away most deep ball opportunities. At the same time, an injury to Davon House opens the door for a familiar threat in Calvin Johnson.
The Packers have generally risen to the occasion in their recent Week 17 divisional clashes, only falling to Minnesota in 2012 after already having secured a division title. This season finale, however, figures to be the most challenging of them all, with Detroit not having won its division since 1993.