It’s finally here, the final week of the 2021 NFL season (bleeding into 2022, even) and for Lions fans, it’s one final chance to pick up a victory over an NFC North rival, the Green Bay Packers.
There’s not too much drama for the Week 18 showdown: The Packers wrapped up homefield advantage last week with a win over the Minnesota Vikings. For the Lions, there’s a slight tinge of drama, of the top pick variety, with the Jacksonville Jaguars needing a loss to the likely playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts to lock up the No. 1 pick. So, yes, we will know who has the top pick by the end of the 1 p.m. window of games.
Do the Free Press writers think Detroit’s mentality of playing hard to the final whistle will result in a win against a Green Bay team that has very little to play for?
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m., Fox.
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I’m not sure what to think of this game. Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s other key starters will play, but I’d be surprised if they saw more than a half of action. That seems like enough time to stay sharp for the playoffs while minimizing the injury risk inherent to the NFL game.
The Lions should get a lift from Jared Goff’s return, but there’s enough uncertainty about the availability of Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker to wonder how much that will help the offense. At a minimum, I expect the Lions to play a better, more competitive game than they did last week against the Seahawks. They’ve rebounded strong from their worst performances of the season, beating the Arizona Cardinals after getting blown out by the Denver Broncos and tying the Pittsburgh Steelers after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles. This should be another bounce-back effort, and if Packers coach Matt LaFleur opts for a more conservative than expected approach with Rodgers and Co., the Lions might even finish Dan Campbell’s first season with a win. The pick: Packers 24, Lions 20.
The question isn’t who’s going to win this game? The question is who’s going to play in this game? Even though Green Bay clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye, LaFleur said early in the week that his starters would play against the Lions. If the starters play more than just a few series to keep the rust at bay for their two-week break, it could get ugly at Ford Field. The Lions have health concerns at both offensive tackle spots plus Goff, and D’Andre Swift should once again get a light workload as he works his way back from a shoulder sprain. The pick: Packers 30, Lions 19.
This game means nothing for the Packers, other than to stay sharp. So how long will Green Bay keep its starters in? Long enough for Green Bay to win, short enough for the Lions to keep this close. If Goff plays and the Packers sit their starters, I wouldn’t be stunned if the Lions won this. The pick: Packers 24, Lions 21.