Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Packers can guarantee first round bye with win
The "Smith Brothers" Preston and Za'Darius will be looking to serve misery upon the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Photo: Mark Hoffman - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Last week the Green Bay Packers secured the NFC North division with a 23-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

It's a case now of one down, one to go as with the division secured, a win at the Detroit Lions would secure the number two seed in the NFC and a bye into the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.

If the Packers win and the San Francisco 49ers lose against the Seattle Seahawks in the last regular season game of the decade on Sunday Night Football, the Packers will ensure the path to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau Field.

However, a loss to Detroit could see Green Bay tumble to third seed and a potential second match in three weeks against the Vikings.

Playoffs start early for the Packers

Though this is not a do-or-die match up for the Packers, the mentality inside the Packers camp says otherwise.

"This is a playoff game for us. There's no doubt about it. That's the way we're approaching it." Packers' Head Coach Matt LaFleur said on Thursday.

Linebacker, Blake Martinez added: "Our coaches have put it perfectly where they talk about, hey, do you want to win this week and get to the second round? Or do you want to have to win next week to get to the second round?"

The message is clear, win and the Packers get to rest up for a week before a home game in the divisional round.

Early errors against the Vikings

One area the Packers will be wanting to tidy up looking ahead to the playoffs is turnovers. Although the Packers have the second-fewest turnovers in the NFL with 12 (New Orleans Saints - eight), three of those came on Monday night.

The first half saw fumbles by Aaron Jones and Davante Adams and a rare interception of Aaron Rodgers by the Vikings' Anthony Harris. Knowing that in the playoffs every possession counts, the Packers will be hoping that first half was just a minor blip.

In a lacklustre first half the Packers went into half-time 10-9 down. All of the Packers' points were courtesy of field-goals by Mason Crosby. The Vikings' touchdown came after Stefon Diggs caught a 21-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Packers' ability to close the game

The second half was a much better showing from the Packers on both sides of the ball.

Two touchdowns from running back Aaron Jones secured the game for Green Bay. The highlight from Jones was a brilliant 56-yard-run down the left of the field to secure the game with just six minutes left. Jones finished the game with 154 yards from 23 carries and scored an NFL best 16th rushing TD of the season.

Rodgers completed 26 passes for 216 yards and zero touchdowns, while throwing just his third interception of the season. Of those 216 yards, number one target Adams was on the end of 116 yards of those from 13 receptions.

If the threat of Rodgers, Jones and Adams doesn't have prospective playoff opponents worrying then maybe the Packers defense might.

The Packers held the Vikings scoreless in the second half. Cornerback Kevin King intercepted Kirk Cousins mid-way through the third quarter. 

Linebacker, Za'Darius Smith looked relentless in this game finishing with three and a half sacks (two in the second half) and five tackles for a loss.

All of this has came against a Vikings team that have ran the Packers all the way in the race for the NFC North and have also secured their spot in the playoffs.

With this Packers team improving on defense lately and tied fourth in interceptions everything could be coming together just at the right time.

Can the Lions play spoiler?

A look at Detroit's 3-11-1 record would say there's not much hope. An NFL worst eight game losing streak would solidify the point further. However, five of those eight defeats came by single digit margins. Commendable considering Lions QB Matthew Stafford has been out injured during this spell.

But it is in their last three games where the margin of defeat has grown. Since week 14 the Lions have lost by 13 against the Vikings, 21 against Tampa Bay Buccaneers before losing 27-17 last week against the Denver Broncos.

It has been a good effort to stay competitive in most games despite Stafford's injury. In last weeks game against Denver the Lions held the lead going into the fourth quarter, before two consecutive TD drives secured the game for the Broncos.

The positives from this match came from the likes of Kenny Golladay (six receptions for 66 yards) and running backs Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough combining for 76 yards between them. If those three players are up for spoiling the Packers top two hopes then all hope is not lost for Lions fans.

With the Lions confirming earlier this month that HC Matt Patricia will be back for the 2020 season, the Lions players will be looking to impress in their last game of the season to keep a place in the 2020 squad. A win against the Packers would go a long way towards that.

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