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December

Packers vs. Lions Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Packers QB Matt Flynn has a perfect stage in Week 17 for his looming free agent status.

The Green Bay Packers (14-1) and Detroit Lions (10-5) face off in Week 17 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 12:00 CST, Sunday, January 1, 2012.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick with the call, Laura Okmin on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Packers lead, 92-65-7 (Packers won last regular season game, 27-17, on Nov. 24, 2011 at Ford Field.)

Five things to watch

1. Money to be made

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that he wants all three quarterbacks to play on Sunday, but the middle man in the group has a golden opportunity to bump up his price tag this summer. Matt Flynn, the Packers backup quarterback and a free agent after the season, will likely see the majority of the snaps against the Lions. Another solid performance on the big stage may propel a quarterback-needy team to give Flynn the opportunity to start for their franchise—and the money that goes with it—next season.

2. Who needs receivers?

The Packers offense may be one of the most receiver-dependent outfits in the NFL, but they’ll be down two at that position on Sunday. Both Greg Jennings (knee) and Randall Cobb (groin) were ruled out this week by McCarthy. Their absence should mean an increase in snaps for the Packers’ four tight ends, and more specifically, rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.  Expect the two first-year players to log career highs in snaps and receptions on Sunday.

3. Clifton’s return

Packers left tackle Chad Clifton has played in some big games during his career, but Sunday’s tilt with the Lions might rank near the top. While the game alone has little overall meaning, how Clifton performs may influence whether or not he can play again in the NFL. The Packers get one chance to see him live before the playoffs begin, and if they don’t like what they see from him, McCarthy may have to go with with Marshall Newhouse as his starting left tackle in the postseason. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if Clifton wasn’t the same guy he was before the torn hamstring, as he’s 35 years old and in his 12th season in the NFL. A dud of a performance or set back with the injury could signal the end of Clifton’s NFL career.

4. Finding the guy

Both McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have expressed the need to experiment at right outside linebacker this week, so expect the Packers to start Erik Walden but mix in Vic So’oto, Jamari Lattimore, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo against the Lions. Somehow, someway, the Packers have to find more production from that position. In the end, it’s probably wishful thinking to say that one of those players will all of sudden produce in Week 17.  However, a big performance, like Walden gave against the Bears in Week 17 last year, can still happen. It’d be a huge boost to a defense that needs one if a backup or two could show some signs of life against the Lions.

5. Streaks on the line

Say what you want about this game being “meaningless” for the Packers, but there are certainly some meaningful streaks on the line Sunday. The most obvious is the Packers’ winning streak over the Lions in the state of Wisconsin, a span that stretches 19 regular season games and the 1994 playoffs. No team has an active streak over one team at home as long as the Packers’ current stretch over the Lions. But the streaks don’t end there. The Packers have also won 13 straight regular season home finales, 12 straight at Lambeau Field and six straight in the NFC North. All will be on the line when the Lions come to Green Bay on Sunday.

Prediction

The Lions will playing their starters 60 minutes in an effort to avoid a trip to the Superdome during Wildcard weekend. Their first win in 21 tries in Wisconsin would accomplish just that. The Packers will be playing it safe, just as they should. The 10-5 Lions are more than good enough to beat a team, even one as deep as the Packers, that’s playing mostly backups. 15-1 would be nice, but the Packers will have to settle for 14-2.

Lions 27, Packers 20 (Season record 12-3)

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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16 Responses to “Packers vs. Lions Preview: 5 Things to Watch”

  1. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

    I can think of nothing more demoralizing than the Lions losing yet another in GB against a 2nd and 3rd string team,for the most part,this Sunday and then having to go to NO in Rd1.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Ron LC says:

    The way that the sports media morons vote, I think AR could miss out on MVP for this year. Once again NO will have Brees throwing when they’re up 45 to 0 and the media will fall for that crap. But, GB will have a rested and healthy AR when it really counts. Once again AR exemplifies the word TEAM. He could be whining like the rest of the “individuals” that play the position.

    Hope the Clifton experiment goes well, if not they may have to bring another Olineman to the active roster for the playoffs. Newhouse and EDS performed very well against the Bears. But without Clifton there is no one else.

    Glad Jennings and Cobb don’t have to play. The extra 2 weeks of healing should do the trick.

    No injuries to RB’s please. This could be the position with the most risk for the playoffs.

    GB promoting Flynn is interesting. If all goes well and MM is right that he is expecting to win this game, Flynn should have a nice pay day in the near future. Good for Matt, but GB gets nothing back. Wish they could have traded him.

    Whatever the outcome, and that will depend on some wild lineups at the LB positions, GB is in a very good position for the playoffs.

    Go Pack!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Oppy says:

      I’m more interested in seeing how EDS plays vs. the Lions than how he played vs. the Bears.

      IMO, the Lions DL is better from top to bottom than any other in the NFL. I don’t think CHI’s interior linemen would even make the Lions’ 53.

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    • Bob says:

      I think they get a compensatory pick, which is partially dependent on the contract signed. It will be interesting to see what they get this year for Jenkins, Colledge, & Jackson.

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  3. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor 12 says:

    IMO,TT and MM feel like that got from Flynn already by knowing he can play well enough to keep this team very viable if needed.We get a comp pick in 2013 I believe and Flynn deserves his shot and any team that gets him gets a great team guy.
    Just a side note,I really thought that ARI would have been better off with Flynn than going with Kolb or Sea and SF if they didn’t draft Kaepernic to compete with Smith.

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  4. Ron LC says:

    I guess he can’t wear gloves. He could’nt untie Suhs shoes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Cobb's Groin says:

    The big question is this:

    WHO IS GOING TO RETURN PUNTS FOR THE PACKERS THIS WEEKEND???!!!! If I see Tramon or Jordy back there…I am going to puke. Even Shields would be a huge problem. We can’t afford to have one of those guys get hurt because they’re not ready for that position. PAT LEE???????

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Cobb's Groin says:

    I know that I’m in the minority with this, but I wish that the Packers were going for the win. A win this Sunday forces the three hottest teams in the NFC (Besides the Packers) to have to play each other. If we lose, we have to play the Lions before the NFC Championship Game. They will kill the Giants or Cowboys. It would have been nice to see the Saints, Lions and 49ers all beating themselves up before they had to play us in the NFC Championship Game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Personally, I think you’re overrating the Lions. I would take the Giants over the Lions.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

      • Ron LC says:

        Agree Al, I have a strong feeling there is more to MM’s approach than meets the eye. I’m convinced her really wants to win this game. And he is developing a plan to do just that.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • BubbaOne says:

          Happy New Year everyone…what a great year 2011 was for us Packer fans…kinda hate to turn the page. Starting off 2012 w/ a win over the Lions would help.
          Ron, I really hope MM figures out a way to win this game. I want the to keep the streak alive and I want the Lions to go beat up NO next week.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      • Bob says:

        The year the Pack lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship game. They also played the Lions in the last game of the regular season. I don’t want to see the Giants in the playoffs, but if they win their division. It might happen again,Giants are the team I fear most, they play in the cold. Unlike NO, SF, Dallas, Atlanta, or Detroit.

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  7. Ron LC says:

    Weather may be a factor in today’s game. Not temps but high winds. Forecast is for 30 mph sustained wind with 50 mph gusts. Light snow 1″ possible. Kicking and passing will be affected. Might be a big advantage for the running game.

    Will MM use Matt to direct a running game plan? Can the defense finally learn how to tackle? Will AR play at all? Can Stafford throw in the wind?

    Kicking game will be a crap shoot. Can Jason kick in bad conditions? Will Mason kick well in bad conditions? Where will punts end up?

    The game should at least be fun to watch.

    Go Pack!

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