The Green Bay Packers (9-3) will clinch the NFC North with a win Sunday against the Detroit Lions, coupled with a Vikings loss to the Buccaneers.
Goal number-1 for the Packers each and every year is to win the division. Goal number-2 is to secure home field advantage and a first-round bye. For that to happen, the Packers will need a little help from the collection of teams playing the top-seeded New Orleans Saints.
Translation: There is no reason for the Packers to be flat against a lesser team Sunday in Detroit.
But what can we learn about the Packers on Sunday?
“Can they take care of business against lesser teams, when they’re on the road,” ESPN-Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde tells Wisconsin’s Afternoon News.
In 2019, the Packers (13-3) season ended in the NFC Championship game. The Lions (3-12-1) season ended with ownership of the number-3 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Still, aside of losses to the 49ers, Chargers and Eagles, it was the Lions who gave the Packers a two-fold migraine. Amazingly, Green Bay was able to win both games despite never leading in regulation.
The x-factor in the Packers 41-21 win over the Lions in week-2, was running back Aaron Jones who rushed for a career-high 168 yards. Also, in that game, tight end Robert Tonyan hauled in his first reception and touchdown of the season. Tonyan saw an increase in snaps after rookie Josiah Deguara tore his ACL in week-1.
Fast-forward to week-14 and Tonyan is tied with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce for the league lead in touchdown receptions by a tight end with 8.
“I think his [Deguara’s] absence forced them to play Tonyan more,” Wilde continues. “Even in situations where maybe they weren’t going to throw the ball. And he, it turn, elevated his blocking to become a more well-rounded tight end.”
Following Sunday’s game against the Lions, the Packers will return home for a Saturday night contest against the Carolina Panthers.