SNF - Lions at Packers
December 9, 2012
By Chris David
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The NFC North will take center stage this Sunday Night as Green Bay (8-4 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) welcomes Detroit (4-8 SU, 5-7 ATS) to Lambeau Field, where the Lions have struggled and that’s putting it nicely. The Packers have won 20 consecutive home games against Detroit. You would have to go back to 1991 to remember the Lions leaving Wisconsin with a victory.
When you look at that streak and you add in this year’s form for both teams, you can understand why the oddsmakers listed Green Bay as a 6 ½-point favorite.
The Lions opened the season 1-3 and somehow managed to get to 4-4. Unfortunately, the team’s inability to win close games has sent them into a tailspin with four straight losses, three of them by four or less. In its eight losses, the largest margin for Detroit was 10 points, which came against Minnesota (24-34) on Nov. 11.
It’s clear that this team is talented enough to hang with anybody but losing close games shows that you’re not a good club. It’s safe to say that along with the Chargers, the Lions have been underachievers and probably be one of the top teams not to make the playoffs.
"This is a tough league for tough people, and we'll find out now who is tough,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
The “soft” label is often misused in sports so we won’t go there but Schwartz and his team isn’t playing tough and hasn’t been tough all season. Last Sunday, the Lions were stunned at home by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts, 35-33. On Thanksgiving Day, they allowed the Texans to steal a 34-31 overtime win and in Week 11, they blew a six-point lead to Green Bay and wound up losing 24-20. The Lions dominated the Packers that day in total yards (362-314) but they lost the turnover battle (4-1) and that again was the difference.
Green Bay outscored Detroit 10-0 in the final two minutes to not only earn the win, but it got backers the cover as a three-point road favorite too.
So is this the week the Lions get tough?
Not only has Green Bay owned Detroit at home, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has owned them in his career. The gunslinger is 7-1 and the lone loss occurred when he left the game early with an injury.
The Packers are coming off a 23-14 win last Sunday as seven-point home favorites. The win comes after the team was embarrassed by the Giants 38-10 in another SNF matchup in Week 12.
Despite the blowout loss at New York, Green Bay has won six of its last seven games and it’s winning with a banged-up roster. This team is depleted on both sides of the football yet it’s found a way to win. The offensive line is missing two starters, in particular tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip), and the unit already watched Rodgers get sacked 39 times this season. The Lions’ strength on defense is their front seven and they did pull down Rodgers three times in the first meeting. Also missing on offense will be wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and running back James Starks (knee). The Packers did sign former running back Ryan Grant to the roster again.
Defensively, Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Clay Matthews (hamstring) are going to miss their sixth and fifth straight games respectively. Not having your best player in the secondary and top pass rusher should open up the eyes for the Lions. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford leads the NFL with 3,742 passing yards and his main target Calvin Johnson (1,428) tops all wide outs in yards.
A win for Green Bay would push its division record to 4-0 and at least keep the club in first of the NFC North or tied for the lead with the Bears, who they face next Sunday at Soldier Field.
Since losing to San Francisco (22-30) at home in Week 1, Green Bay has gone 5-0 (3-2 ATS) in its last five games at home. Outside of the run ‘n shoot Saints (27 points), the Packers have held every other opponent under 17 points.
Detroit is 2-4 both SU and ATS on the road this season and the two wins came against the Eagles (26-23) and Jaguars (31-14), who are a combined 5-19.
The total for tonight’s matchup opened at 52 ½ and has dropped to 48 ½. The latest weather reports are expecting an 80% chance of snow with winds reaching 20 miles per hour. The kickoff temperature is in the twenties with the wind chill.
Detroit (8-3-1) has been an ‘over’ team this season and the last two matchups at Lambeau Field watched the Packers notch shootout victories (45-41, 28-26) over the Lions.
Prior to last week’s shootout between Philadelphia and Dallas (38-33), the ‘under’ had cashed in six straight weeks on Sunday Night.
As always, NBC will provide national coverage of this game at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Chris David can be reached at email@example.com