Sports

Late-season runs raise stakes for Lions-Packers matchup

Bears Lions Football
Bears Lions Football
Bears Lions Football
Bears Lions Football
Vikings Packers Football
Vikings Packers Football
Vikings Packers Football
Posted at 5:37 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 18:40:15-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers know they will reach the postseason if they win Sunday night. The Detroit Lions' playoff prospects are a little more complicated.

Even if Detroit (8-8) beats Green Bay (8-8), the Lions can reach the playoffs only if the Seattle Seahawks (8-8) lose to the Los Angeles Rams (5-11) earlier in the day. A victory by the Seahawks would eliminate the Lions.

The Lions insist they'll still have plenty of incentive to beat their NFC North rivals even if it has no impact on their own postseason fortunes.

"There's other things on the line as far having a winning season and beating a division opponent that I feel like really doesn't respect us much at all," Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye said. "There's a lot of other motivating factors.

"It's been one-sided for a long time, but this year we flipped the script. Everyone can kind of see that. They might still feel like this is the old Lions."

Much has changed for both teams since the last time these teams faced off.

The Packers' 15-9 loss at Detroit on Nov. 6 capped a five-game skid that dropped Green Bay's record to 3-6. The Lions had a 1-6 record heading into that game.

The Packers have reeled off four straight victories, thanks in part to a defense that has become adept at forcing takeaways. Green Bay's offense believes it also has improved since producing its lowest point total of the season during that trip to Detroit.

"We're just a way more confident team," Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard said. "We have our identity now. We know what we're fully capable of. If we just go out there and play our game, play hard for four quarters, we're more than certain the results will take care of themselves."

The Lions have won seven of their last nine games and are coming off a 41-10 blowout of the Chicago Bears.

Detroit already has come a long way after going 3-13-1 last year in coach Dan Campbell's debut season. The Lions are seeking their first playoff berth since 2016 and have a chance to end a run of four straight losing seasons.

"It's basically a playoff game for us," Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown said. "We get to see the outcome of the Seahawks game, so we'll know before our game if we're playing for the playoffs or to spoil Green Bay.

"We want to win to have a winning record. That would mean so much after you look at how we started and going 3-13-1 last year. It just shows how far we've come. And for us, the future is now."

REDEMPTION FOR RODGERS?

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a chance to make up for his poor performance in the Nov. 6 loss at Detroit. Rodgers threw three interceptions in that game to match a career high as the Packers consistently misfired in the red zone.

Rodgers isn't accustomed to struggling against the Lions. The Packers are 18-7 against the Lions in games Rodgers has started.

There's a possibility this could be the last game at Lambeau Field for the 39-year-old Rodgers, who says he hasn't yet decided whether to play next season. Even if they reach the postseason, the Packers won't have any home playoff games.

"I've got a lot of great memories here at Lambeau and hopefully can add another one on Sunday," Rodgers said.

WILLIAMS' RETURN

Lions running back Jamaal Williams spent his first four NFL seasons with the Packers. In his second season with the Lions, Williams has an NFL-leading 15 touchdown runs.

Williams remains popular with his former Packers teammates. Rodgers said that "everywhere he goes, he changes people for the better."

"He's one of my all-time favorites," Rodgers said. "He's one of the happiest teammates we've ever had, one of the greatest guys in the locker room that I've been able to work with. Not just an absolute tough guy and a stud on the field but a great, interesting person off the field with all his various interests."

GOFF'S GOOD, TOO

Rodgers, rightfully so, will get much of the attention during the TV broadcast as a four-time MVP. Lions quarterback Jared Goff, though, is no slouch. And like Rodgers, he's also a former California Golden Bears star.

Goff threw three touchdowns in the Lions' blowout of the Bears. Goff, who helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl during the 2018 season, acknowledged he is probably playing the best of his seven-year career.

"He's been in some, as we know, huge games," Campbell said. "He's been in the big one, so this won't be anything new to him. I think it does help, especially in that position."

FORCING TURNOVERS

The Packers have forced 12 turnovers during their four-game winning streak. That's the same number of takeaways they had through the first 12 games of the season.

Green Bay's ball-hawking secondary will challenge Goff, who hasn't thrown an interception in his last eight games. The last player to intercept a pass by Goff was Green Bay's Jaire Alexander.

WATCH OUT FOR NIXON

Green Bay's Keisean Nixon leads the NFL in kickoff return yards (930) and kickoff return average (30.0). His 105-yarder Sunday in a 41-17 victory over Minnesota marked the first time since 2011 the Packers scored on a kickoff return.

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AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.

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