SERIES HISTORY: 173rd regular-season meeting. Packers lead the series, 97-68-7. The Packers beat the Lions 34-27 in Week 3. These two teams also met with the division on the line in the final game of the 2014 season, when a hobbled Aaron Rodgers threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 Green Bay victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The final game of the season will determine the NFC North division winner. And, depending on the results of Sunday's afternoon games, the loser of this contest could be out of the playoff picture entirely.
The Packers will claim the division with a win. With a loss, Green Bay can secure a playoff berth with a Washington loss.
The Lions will lock up the NFC North with a win and can earn a first-round bye if both Atlanta and Seattle also lose. With a loss, Detroit can clinch a playoff berth with a Washington loss.
A prime-time shootout featuring two of the top passers in the league very well could decide this season's NFC North title. Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford should have the advantage, going against defenses that have been riddled by injury on the back end and prone to giving up big pass plays.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy undoubtedly will be liberal in riding the red-hot right arm of Rodgers, who has 14 touchdown throws and zero interceptions the last six games. Rodgers had four touchdown passes in a mistake-free 34-27 victory over the Lions in Green Bay on Sept. 25.
Converted receiver Ty Montgomery could be the X-factor on the Ford Field turf Sunday night.
Given the lack of punch for the Lions on the ground, the Packers' defense can zero in on applying steady pressure on Stafford. He has been playing with a glove on his throwing hand as he soldiers on with a badly injured middle finger. Stafford has limited the mistakes he was notorious for making in previous seasons. He had only one interception in the first meeting with Green Bay. The opportunistic Packers, however, have an NFL-best 12 takeaways the last three games while not turning the ball over once.
The Lions haven't proven capable of winning high-scoring affairs in the second half of the season, so they need to do their best to keep Rodgers and Co. off the field. That means taking care of the football, finding some semblance of a running game and capitalizing with touchdowns once they get into the red zone.
On defense, the Lions insist they need to shut down Green Bay's rushing attack first in order to make the Packers' offense one-dimensional. Rodgers hurts teams by getting out of the pocket, so containing him with disciplined pass rushes is important.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions LT Taylor Decker vs. Packers OLB Nick Perry. The grind of the season doesn't appear to be getting to Decker, but the rookie left tackle has struggled with some of the smaller, quicker pass rushers he has faced. Olivier Vernon gave Decker fits two weeks ago when the Lions lost to the Giants, and Perry had two fourth-quarter sacks against the Lions in the first meeting. Can Decker outplay the Packers' best pass rusher this time around?
--Packers WR Jordy Nelson vs. Lions CB Darius Slay. Slay practiced Wednesday for the first time in nearly two weeks and could return from the hamstring injury that has nagged him much of the year. If Slay plays, he'll see plenty of time on Nelson, who's coming off two straight 100-yard games and is starting to round into form after last year's knee injury. Nelson had 101 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting against the Lions, production the Lions can't afford to let him duplicate.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--Out: RB James Starks (concussion)
--Out: RB Theo Riddick (wrist)
--Doubtful: C Travis Swanson (concussion)
--Questionable: LB DeAndre Levy (knee), WR Andre Roberts (shoulder), CB Darius Slay (hamstring)
Lions DE Ziggy Ansah. Ansah has had an incredibly disappointing season, with just two sacks, but the right end has played some of his best football in recent weeks. Ansah has one sack each of the last two games and is coming off a season-high seven-tackle performance against the Cowboys. The Lions need to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and they've been loath to blitz him in the past. If Ansah, who missed the first meeting with a high ankle sprain, can win up front against left tackle David Bakhtiari, it should go a long way toward helping the Lions win the division.
-- Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 4,128 passing yards, his team-record sixth 4,000-yard season. He has thrown for 1,718 yards, 14 TDs and no interceptions in his past six games. In 15 career meetings, he has 30 TD passes and six interceptions.
-- Packers WR Jordy Nelson leads the NFL with 14 touchdown catches and also has 1,191 yards, his third 1,000-yard season. In his past four games, he has 30 receptions for 437 yards and five TDs.
-- Packers TE Richard Rodgers has caught a TD pass in three straight games vs. Detroit.
-- Lions QB Matthew Stafford needs 20 yards for his sixth consecutive 4,000-yard season. In his past seven home games vs. division foes, he has 1,879 passing yards, 13 TDs and three interceptions.
-- Lions RB Zach Zenner rushed for a career-high 67 yards and two TDs in Week 16.
-- Lions WR Golden Tate has 85 receptions for 1,000 yards, his second career 1,000-yard season. He has two TDs in his past three home games vs. Green Bay.
Rodgers has been lighting up good defenses recently and the Lions just gave up 42 to Dallas. Rodgers figures to put the Pack over 30 points for the fourth straight game.
OUR PICK: Packers, 38-24.