Green Bay Packers (9-6 SU, 8-6-1 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, January 1 at 8:30PM EST /> Where: Ford Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -3/DET +3
Over/Under Total: 49
By this time on the NFL calendar, teams are playing for absolutely nothing or absolutely everything. Week 17 often serves as the first round of the playoffs and we get two teams on the brink with the Green Bay at Detroit regular season finale. At the very least, this one will decide the winner of the NFC North but this could also become an elimination game if Washington wins earlier in the day. If the Redskins lose, both the Packers and Lions are in the playoffs and this one becomes more about seeding than who is in and who is out. No matter what, this one should be a fun way to wrap up the 2016 season.
Green Bay has impressed during its current five game winning streak and heads into Detroit as a three point favorite. The Lions have gone 5-1 against the spread in their last six home contests but the Packers are 7-3 ATS in the ten trips to Ford Field. The favorite has run up an 8-1 ATS record the last nine times these teams have met with the Pack an impressive 7-3 straight up and against the spread in the last ten overall. Vegas and the online betting sites like that three point line but the Sagarin computer rankings see this a bit closer with the 8th rated Packers about a point better than the 23rd rated Lions. The offense-defense method is predicting a 25-23 Green Bay win.
Green Bay was all but left for dead about a month ago following a four game losing streak they have righted the ship behind the MVP caliber play of Aaron Rodgers and enter the weekend winners of five straight. The once timid offense has regained much of its vintage punch with top-10 ranks in passing yards, total yards and the Pack now averages 26.7 points per game, good for 6th in the league. In a bit of an oddity, because Green Bay played on Christmas Eve and Detroit played on Monday Night, the Packers will have a two day rest advantage this week. The performance metrics trend downward for teams on short rest and there is an extra day in this case that is not normally part of that equation. The extra days might not be enough to get all of the O-Line healthy however as JC Tretter and Bryan Bulaga are still listed as questionable for the game.
Detroit limps in with losses in each of the last two weeks. The Lions looked pretty good while playing Dallas to a 21-21 stalemate early last week but the Cowboys ran away with things late and wound up with a 42-21 win. Detroit started that game with an uncharacteristic focus on running the ball and it worked very well but they got away from it in the second half and not having that offensive balance was part of their undoing. They will need to run well this weekend to avoid a similar fate but that is easier said than done from a team that is 30th in rushing facing a top-10 run defense. Detroit looks to be without the services of Theo Riddick again so those run game responsibilities fall on Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner. Neither back is explosive but Zenner did show that he could be an effective thumper if given the consistent carries. With Rodgers playing so well, a pass-game shootout is not likely a positive scenario for Detroit.
These teams met earlier in the season for what turned out to be a crazy game. Green Bay jumped out to a 31-3 before halftime but Detroit stormed back in the second half behind Matt Stafford’s 385 pass yards and three touchdowns. The Packers were able to survive for a 34-27 win but the Lions should have a little bit of confidence built that they can hang with this team and even come back from a large deficit should they need to. Obviously, falling behind by that much is not a game script any team wants but being at home in front of what should be a tremendous crowd could be the x-factor that was missing in Lambeau. This game was flexed to the evening, giving Lions fans that haven’t seen a division title since 1993 plenty of time to get lubricated.
By Week 17, there are not a lot of secrets left, especially for division opponents. Detroit is middle of the road defensively across the board and faces the unenviable task of slowing down Rodgers and the passing game. Lions CB Darius Slay is questionable with a hamstring and his absence could spell doom to Detroit’s chances of keeping the Green Bay passing game down. Jordy Nelson has re-emerged as the big play threat with Davante Adams chipping in as the second option for A-Rod. Those two receivers have combined for 24 receiving touchdowns and those two against the Detroit secondary will be the key matchup. Detroit needs their best offensive effort as well. Marvin Jones went for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting but has not been the same receiver since defensive coordinators started to scheme against him. Golden Tate has come along to log a 1,000 yard receiving season and Eric Ebron should see another solid week against the soft middle of the Packers defense. The yards will be there for the Lions, but they will need to score touchdowns instead of field goal and win the turnover battle if they want to win this one.
I think that Detroit can limit a Green Bay run game that is still lacking a definitive identity but I just can’t see the Lions shutting down Rodgers given his current hot streak. Rodgers apparently suffered a bit of a stinger against the Vikings but none of the bumps and bruises has been able to slow him over the last five weeks. He enters the week with 36 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions and his QB rating is now north of 102. Much attention was paid to Rodgers’ play during the back half of 2015 through the mid-point of this season but it really does look like he is back on his game and Green Bay simply wins when he is this version of himself. Green Bay has a similar look to the 2010 that got hot late and ran through to the SuperBowl. I don’t know if they are good enough to do that again but I think they are good enough to stomp out Detroit’s divisional hopes. Green Bay 28 Detroit 20
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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