Packers eye playoff bye as they prep for Lions

For the Green Bay Packers, Sunday’s Week 17 game at Detroit is absolutely critical. With a victory, they will enter the playoffs as no worse than the No. 2 seed. And if Green Bay wins and Seattle knocks off or ties San Francisco, the Packers would be the No. 1 seed.The Lions, on the other hand, have endured a miserable season. Since starting 2-0-1, the Lions have won just one game. But don’t tell Lions coach Matt Patricia that the regular-season finale will be meaningless.”Every game means something,” he told reports this week. “That’s why we play. That’s why we come to work every day.”For Green Bay, which improved to 12-3 with a win at Minnesota on Monday night, this will be its biggest game since the 2016 NFC Championship Game.”It’s really sweet to celebrate in the locker room with those guys,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “A lot of guys weren’t here in ’16 the last time we got to put these hats on. That was a sweet run, winning six in a row to finish it off in Detroit. But there’s really nothing like checking that first box on the goal list, winning your division. Obviously, it secures a home playoff game and now we’re playing for even more coming up next week.”There’s no reason why the Packers shouldn’t win, but there are obvious reasons why coach Matt LaFleur should be at least a little concerned. After a big rivalry win, could the Packers be due for a letdown against a team that’s lost eight in a row? Coming off a Monday game and with the disjointed practice schedule with Christmas falling on Wednesday, could the Packers be a little off-kilter?”Everything’s right there in front of us,” LaFleur said. “The one thing I’ll say is you can never take any game for granted in this league. It’s so competitive and you really look at every game, it really comes down to a handful of plays. So, I think the guys understand that. I think they respect Detroit. We battled here until the final whistle in Lambeau, so we’ll have our work cut out for us. We got to make sure our preparation’s on point, our focus is there, our focus and concentration are at the same level of what it was last week.”Detroit’s problems start on offense, with star quarterback Matthew Stafford on injured reserve. In four starts by undrafted rookie David Blough, Detroit has scored just 61 points. He’s completed only 56.6 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, five interceptions and a 68.8 rating. However, Detroit got a boost last week with the return of running back Kerryon Johnson, who missed eight games following knee surgery. He rushed for 42 yards on 10 attempts vs. Denver. Meanwhile, receiver Kenny Golladay leads the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions and 16 receptions of 25-plus yards and is third with 18.0 yards per reception.

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