This is why you win all those games.
As the Packers prepare to tee it up in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, they can entertain a rare luxury that is the direct result of their 10-0 start: Given the right results, the Packers can clinch a playoff berth before the season has even turned into December.
Yeah, with a win over the Lions tomorrow, the Packers will clinch a playoff berth on Sunday if any of these three combinations occur: the Cowboys and Falcons lose, the Cowboys and Saints lose, or the Falcons and Giants lose.
The Packers have given themselves a serious cushion heading into Thursday’s long-awaited showdown with the Lions, which is in stark contrast to the predicament the Packers were facing at a similar stage in the 2010 season. Heading into December, they were coming off a loss in Atlanta and were fast approaching desperation time.
Given the right circumstances this week, the Packers can do a lot more than clinch a playoff berth. Should the Packers win in Detroit and the 49ers lose in Baltimore, the Packers would hold a two-game lead over the 49ers in the race for the NFC playoffs homefield advantage. Clearly and without question, tomorrow is the most important day of the season to date for the Packers.
Keep all of this in mind as you watch Thursday’s game. Thanksgiving Day could become the tipping point in the 2011 NFC season.
You will, however, be witnessing something more than just the present; you’ll be getting an up-close look at the future of the NFC North and a major chunk of the future in the NFC overall on Thursday, because the Packers, Lions and 49ers are gonna be around for a long time.
These are good, young teams with good, young coaches. The Packers and Lions have the kind of franchise-type quarterbacks that keep their teams on top for sustained periods of time. Yeah, Aaron Rodgers is the best in the game, but don’t look down your nose too far at Matt Stafford. His 25 touchdown passes are tied with Tom Brady for second-most in the league.
The Packers have young stars in Rodgers, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and that talented receiving corps. The Lions have Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and some young lions we won’t see but are waiting in the wings: Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure.
In other words, prepare yourself for a lot of tense Thanksgivings because these two teams are going to be at each other’s throats for a lot of years to come, and this just might become a matchup too good not to be played on national TV on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
Now here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions:
1. Block Suh—It starts with that. Rodgers must be protected from a man with bad intentions.
2. Sack Stafford—Because if you don’t, you’ll have to…
3. Cover Johnson—And that’s even more difficult to accomplish.
4. Run the ball—The Lions are 27th against the run. That’s where they’re vulnerable and it’s doubtful they fear the Packers’ running game. Surprise them.
5. Be boring—That’s another way of saying be efficient, which is another way of saying don’t turn it over. The Lions are at their best in games that involve huge swings of momentum and emotion.
6. Make them drive it—Stafford will throw interceptions, and the Packers have proven they will intercept it.
7. Win special teams—They’ve been a sore spot for the Lions this year.
8. Avoid third down—The Lions are No. 1 in third-down defense.
9. Force third down—The Lions are No. 31 in third-down offense.
10. Rise to the occasion—The nation will be watching. Show the country why you’re undefeated. Additional coverage - Nov. 23