GREEN BAY—This game’s meaning is easily understood and simply stated: A win on Sunday will put the Packers in position to clinch the NFC North title before they finish the season in Minnesota.
Three straight wins would do that. Beat the Lions, win in Chicago, beat the Titans at Lambeau Field and the Packers are the NFC North champs. It would be all about holding a one-game lead and the tiebreaker with one game to play in the season.
It can happen in other ways, too, but that’s the way to make it happen without getting help. If the Packers get a little help, they could even clinch the division crown in Chicago next week, but only if they beat the Lions this week.
That’s how important this game is. On the flip side, a loss could be devastating.
So, if you’re looking for some meaningful late-season football on a cold and snowy night in Green Bay, this one’s for you. Don’t look past the Lions. This one could turn out to be as important to the division title race as the game the Packers and Bears will play on Dec. 16. This one sets the table for the next one.
The Lions are an interesting study. Seven of their 12 games have been decided by four or fewer points. They’ve played three overtime games. They opened the season with a walk-off win and saw their flickering playoff hopes extinguished with consecutive walk-off losses the past two weeks.
They’ve got the league’s No. 2 offense and No. 1 passing game and, arguably, the game’s most feared pass receiver. On top of all of that, the Lions have a front four on defense that is begging for a nickname.
Why are they 4-8? Nobody seems to know, and that’s what’s scariest about Coach Jim Schwartz’ team.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.
1. Start fast—It can break the spirit of a team out of playoff contention and having to fight through cold and snow.
2. Stop Calvin Johnson—The Lions’ receiving corps has been depleted by injury, and that should allow extra attention to be focused on Johnson.
3. Run the ball—You don’t want Ndamukong Suh and company teeing off on your quarterback.
4. Block Nick Fairley—He’s the one to fear on the Lions’ front four.
5. Take it up a notch—This is the stretch drive. These are the games that define a team’s season. It’s time for everyone to play their best football.
6. Convert short yardage—Having to throw on third-and-one isn’t what playoff-caliber teams do.
7. Win special teams—The Packers would appear to enjoy a huge advantage.
8. Make those kicks—If last week was indeed a breakthrough, it needs to continue.
9. Move the pocket—Make Fairley and Suh move to find Aaron Rodgers.
10. Play to the camera—This one will be played in prime time. Everyone will be watching, including the Bears. Additional coverage - Dec. 6