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Week 17 Preview: Lions at Packers

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Detroit Lions (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-4)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis. — TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

*Keys to the game: Detroit and Green Bay will battle for the NFC North title, and the winner could end up with a first-round playoff bye depending upon other results.

A season-low seven points and a fumble returned for a touchdown doomed the Packers at Detroit in Week 3.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants to pick up the Packers’ pace and make the Lions try to keep up. That shift could mitigate the impact of Green Bay RB Eddie Lacy, who was key in rushing for 99 yards in a 22-9 win at Lambeau over the Lions last season.

Green Bay is fishing for big plays. If Rodgers doesn’t get wide receivers Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb in single coverage, he instead could land on his back thanks to Detroit’s stout front four.

The Packers’ defense has turned in strong efforts in December, and the Lions cannot count on the takeaways anomaly that carried them Week 3. Green Bay is first in the NFL with a plus-15 turnover margin, and Rodgers hasn’t been intercepted at home all season.

Lions RBs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush are a solid one-two punch, though consistency is an issue. The Lions hope to get chunk plays from the running game to free up outside targets for QB Matt Stafford. The Packers picked off Stafford twice in the first meeting.

If the Packers can get Stafford off of his launch point, Green Bay’s speed in the secondary will stand out.

*Matchup to watch — Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Packers CBs Tramon Williams and Sam Shields: Shields is earning big-game credentials. To fully validate them, he will need to hold Megatron in check or at least keep him from running up the back of FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Johnson is averaging 137.5 yards in his past four games at Lambeau, amassing five touchdowns in those games.

*Player spotlight — Lions C Travis Swanson: The rookie from Arkansas started three games at guard but jumps to center, where suspended starter Dominic Raiola played all 1,024 snaps in the first 15 games. Swanson will need help with the Packers likely plotting to fire gaps on either side of the 312-pounder.

*Fast facts: The Lions last won their division in 1993. … Lions WRs Johnson and Golden Tate have combined for only four drops in 233 targets this season.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Matthew Stafford is unproven in a playoff-like atmosphere, so it is too much to ask him to match Aaron Rodgers. Punch for punch, the Packers have more wallop than the Lions. However, Detroit’s skill players give the Lions a puncher’s chance at a knockout in the most important game of the year.

*Our pick: Packers 19-16


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