The NFC North has been decided in Week 17 for the last four years (Green Bay at Chicago, Detroit at Green Bay, Minnesota at Green Bay). This year, unless the Redskins lose on Sunday, not only will this last of the Crunchtime Matchups decide the NFC North, it will also decide a playoff spot.
Crunchtime Matchups: Green Bay-Detroit
Detroit managed to make it this far thanks to the second half collapse of the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears failing to build off of 2014, and the first half struggles of the Packers. The last time these two met, Green Bay won, and this was before the five-game hot streak the Packers went on.
Matthew Stafford in Jim Bob Cooter‘s offense has put up more efficient numbers, but he’s usually been the same gunslinger quarterback he’s always been. Against the Cowboys, Stafford had a terrible interception on a forced throw to a covered receiver, and had two more dropped. After sitting high at 9-4, the Lions are 9-6 and in danger of missing the playoffs entirely.
That would make things interesting in Detroit if it were to happen.
With injuries to Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah, as well as one to Stafford himself, the Lions’ issues are beginning to catch up to them. The receiving talent is rich, but the defensive side is not, which is a problem.
This time, Detroit has home field advantage, but against the wrong team.
The Packers were on the brink of missing the playoffs entirely and Mike McCarthy was on the brink of losing his job. Though he still may if the Packers lose on Sunday, Green Bay has fought since that 4-6 start to preserve a 9-6 record entering the Sunday Night showdown.
Aaron Rodgers is arguably the MVP for the season. His “struggles” to start the season were to blame on the receivers, play calling, and lack of a run game to open things up. With Ty Montgomery switching to running back, Devante Adams putting up more touchdowns, and Jordy Nelson finding his athleticism, Rodgers has put up the stellar numbers we’ve expected him to put up.
However, he’s played like an MVP candidate all season long. It’s just that his receivers are catching the ball in the spots that matter this time. He is the reason the Packers are at 9-6 instead of 4-11 at best.
It’s only right that these two teams meet in one of the most anticipated games of the year.
Riddick’s injury may keep him sidelined for the game, so Zach Zenner must continue to show the promising play from the Cowboys game. Marvin Jones has disappeared in the second half of the season, but is a really good receiver in general that’s getting covered more. Detroit needs to get him involved because he is a winner at the catch point more times than not.
Really, unless Rodgers doesn’t play or isn’t at full health, there’s no way he doesn’t continue the hot streak the Packers have been on. A great performance in a win could all but cement his status as the MVP frontrunner, or as an MVP candidate at the very least.
Rodgers has to continue his usual quality play, while Stafford must limit the mistakes and get the receivers going. Zenner (and Riddick if he’s playing) need to get involved in the running game. Jim Bob Cooter abruptly abandoned Zenner after the first three drives against the Cowboys. That can’t happen in this crucial winner-take-all game.
This will be a battle of which quarterback crumbles first. Going from the last five weeks, Green Bay should have the edge in this one. Nevertheless, expect a high quality thriller, and the final game of the regular season.