Green Bay Packers (9-6 SU, 8-6-1 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS)
Week 17 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday Night Football, January 1, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: GB -3.5/DET +3.5
Over/Under Total: 48
The Green Bay Packers come to Ford Field on Sunday Night Football to face the Detroit Lions. This is for the NFC North division, with the winner of this game taking the division. The stakes are high. Green Bay is rolling now with 5 straight wins, including a 38-25 win over Minnesota on Saturday. After a 4-6 start to the season, the Packers are cooking and look to run the table with a win over Detroit on the road this week. Detroit blew a chance to solidify their postseason standing with a MNF loss to Dallas, 42-21, and now faces what might be a playoff game, in effect. The winner gets in the playoffs and the loser will need to hope Washington loses to the Giants on Sunday. And in the interest of full-disclosure, Tampa could also sneak in if a lot of stars align properly. And by the time these teams hit the field, they will know if this is a win-and-get-in scenario.
These divisional rivals played in week three, a long enough time ago to make the result perhaps not so pertinent at this point. Green Bay was one of the few teams to beat Detroit in a close one this season, beating the Lions at Lambeau, 34-27. A lot has changed since then, personnel-wise and in the overall trajectory of the two teams. Green Bay had yet to plunge into the abyss, as they would soon go on to lose four in a row and almost lose the season. One should expect a high-urgency performance from a pair of teams that went through a lot to get here.
The Packers deserve a lot of credit for reversing course so dramatically this season. In that 4-game slide, the offense looked completely off-key. Even Aaron Rodgers looked off-tune, with a lot of uneven play. The defense was in shambles, giving up 153 combined points in that stretch. In the last 5 games, they've allowed just 88 points. Both sides of the ball have been key in the Packers getting back on the right track. Rodgers appears to be in vintage form and with a few guys getting back into the rotation, the defense looks to be a different unit.
Rodgers has been on-target lately, throwing and moving beautifully, as he makes full-use of a cast of weapons who have stepped up their play over the course of the season. The run-game is still not what it was supposed to be with Eddie Lacy, but they've gotten the occasional boost from receiver-convert Ty Montgomery. Also helping is Jordy Nelson reclaiming his spot among the very few best receivers in the league. Davante Adams has stepped up this season. And as last week showed, some different players will pop up here and there, as last week it was Geronimo Allison, who made some big catches in the win over Minnesota. And there's still tight ends Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook, along with Randall Cobb (questionable) and James Starks. Rodgers is over 4000 yards with 36 touchdowns.
Again, the Green Bay defense has been a big part of the turnaround. Clay Matthews is back to being a terror, with a big front and a playmaking secondary. They've picked off 16 passes this season, led by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has five interceptions. Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, and Matthews are getting after quarterbacks. While the secondary makes plays, their leakiness could end up being trouble looking ahead for the Packers. And part of the reason the Green Bay defense has been off the past few weeks after a dominant month of play is this pass-defense. After giving up 362 yardsto Matt Barkley in week 15, they allowed 382 to Sam Bradford last week. Those two aren't exactly the most aerially-inclined duo, so those yardage totals are disturbing.
It's important to go beyond X's and O's with two teams like this. With Minnesota looking like they were going to pull away with the division, these teams hung in there. While Green Bay turned things around suddenly and dramatically, Detroit also was put to the test after a 1-3 start to the season. They went on to win 8 of their next 9. After looking at their 2015 season, it's clear they are one of the streakiest teams in the league. But both teams came from well off the pace to get to this spot and one can't underestimate the character needed to make that happen.
Detroit didn't have it easy. In order to turn things around, they had to soldier through a bunch of tough games, engineering a cluster of late-comebacks to pull out close wins. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record with eight 4th quarter/overtime comeback wins. With two straight losses, the streaky Lions are choosing a bad time for one of their bad runs. They look to bounce back and call on some of the tools they called on to get to this spot. Aerially, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron, and Anquan Boldin will be called upon, while they continue to look for answers on the ground. On MNF, they got a little boost from rookie Zach Zenner, who ran for 2 touchdowns. A spark on the ground could give this offense the boost they need.
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Detroit's defense got exploited on Monday against the Cowboys, but they weren't the first and won't be the last. Leading up to that game, no team had surpassed 20 points against the Lions in eight games. Up-front, they get good play from Ziggy Ansah and Haloti Ngata, with DeAndre Levy a force in the middle, along with playmakers like Darius Slay (questionable) in the secondary. Now would be a good time for this defense to recapture some of its lost form.
Against two good teams in the Giants and Cowboys, the Lions have not been able to show they are up-to-snuff against the conference's best. Add in a bunch of close wins and it suggests the formula for Detroit's success is a tenuous one. At the same time, the dichotomy here might be too stark between a Green Bay team that is soaring into this spot and a Detroit bunch that fell apart in a high-profile MNF spot against a Dallas team that didn't have a lot to play for. And the Lions didn't score a single point in the second half in doing so. Still, I see a tight divisional game and having the points at home somehow makes sense.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Detroit Lions plus 3.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Green Bay vs. Detroit game from the comfort of your own home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!