DetroitLions (10-5, 7-6-2 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (14-1, 10-5 ATS) NFL Week 17, January 1, 2012, 1pm ET, Lambeau Field, FOX
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Det (-3.5)/GB (+3.5)
Over/Under Total: 46.5
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Time flies with the final week of the NFL regular season already here and one of the better matchups on paper has the Detroit Lions heading to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers.Both teams are already in the postseason draw but while Detroit still has playoff positioning to consider, Green Bay has nothing to gain having already sewn up home field advantage throughout.The game kicks at 1pm ET during the first wave of FOX coverage.
The key issue this week will be Packers coach Mike McCarthys philosophy on playing or resting his key personnel.The online betting sites have assumed that the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson will see little or no time on the field and have listed the Packers as 3.5 point underdogs.Moneyline information is still unlisted across the offshore sportsbooks but the over/under total is out there in the 46 to 47 range.
For what it is worth, McCarthy has a mixed history with resting his players.In 2007, with the #2 seed locked up, the Packers rested their stars but still beat Detroit in the final week.They eventually reached the NFC Championship before losing to the Giants.In 2009, the Packers played the Arizona Cardinals in week 17 with and were virtually assured of meeting the same Cardinals a week later in the Wildcard round.McCarthy played his starters through most of that game while Arizona rested its starters.Green Bay won that game but fell the following week.There is little concrete information out of Green Bay regarding McCarthys official position but most assume Rodgers will not play at all as Detroit stands to gain so much by potentially putting the Packer quarterback on the ground and out of the playoffs.Green Bay is still dealing with offensive line injuries, making a decision to run Rodgers out there even riskier.
Green Bay got the best of a Thanksgiving Day game this year, winning by a 27-15 score in a meeting that will probably be remembered for Ndamukong Suhs stomping incident and subsequent suspension.The two 2010 meetings were interesting as well with Green Bay holding on for a 28-26 win early in the season and the later game was a 7-3 Lions win with Aaron Rodgers leaving that contest with a concussion in the early going.Detroit does seem to have Green Bays number to some extent and would undoubtedly enjoy putting another blemish on the Packers season.
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Offensively, the teams are very high powered with Detroit entering the week 4thin scoring at 28.9 points per game with Green Bay leading the NFL at just over 34.Both squads are in the top-5 in passing yards with the Packers just 11 yards ahead in total yards gained per game.The defenses are similar as well, with the Pack giving up 21.2 points per game and the Lions at 22.8 on average.Green Bay is giving up more yards with second to last ranks in both passing and total yards allowed with the Lions a bit soft against the run, giving up a 6th-worst 131 yards per game on the ground.
Matthew Stafford has taken a big step forward this year, throwing for 4,518 yards and 36 scores so far, with a lot of those coming to Pro Bowler Calvin Johnson who also leads the team in catches (85) and yards (1437).Kevin Smith has filled in nicely for Javhid Best and has six touchdowns in six games with 474 yards from scrimmage.Look for Brandon Pettigrew to have a big game as the Packer have shown no ability to defend the tight end, especially over the middle of the field.
Matt Flynn would take the reigns if Rodgers sits and Flynn does have some experience from last year and almost beat the Patriots while Rodgers sat with a concussion.Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine should get a ton of work and even with Greg Jennings out for another week, the Packers still have a good stable of wideouts in Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Donald Driver.
James Starks is questionable for Green Bay after re-injuring his ankle last week and tackles Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton will likely miss another week although both are practicing.DE Ryan Pickett is questionable with a concussion and any number of defensive players including Woodson and Clay Matthews may see limited time in favor of rest.Detroit looks pretty healthy with just CB Aaron Berry listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.
Looking at against the spread trends, Detroit is 0-4-1 in their last five against teams with winning records while Green Bay is 7-1 in their last eight such games.The Packers have handled the NFC North with a 5-1 ATS record in their last six but the Lions have struggled against division foes, going just 1-3-1 in their last five against the North.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Unless the Packers treat this like a pre-season game, there is still enough talent for Green Bay to win this game at home.My anticipation is that Rodgers does not play at all but the Lions defense wont keep the Packers off the board completely.The weather is forecasted to be good enough to pass the ball with no problems so the over looks a good bet, too.In the end, all the Packers really care about this Sunday is getting healthy. Look for a competitive effort from both teams with Detroit getting the cover.
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