Lions vs. Packers: Last-minute thoughts and final prediction

It’s already a strange Sunday. Normally this particular pregame ritual gets written around 9 a.m. and then the buzz carries into the 1 p.m. kickoff. But today is different.

The Lions face the Packers in Green Bay in Week 18 in primetime. It’s Detroit’s first night game of the season, and it comes with much on the line. Depending on the outcome of the Rams vs. Seahawks game, the Lions could be playing for a postseason berth. Even if they’re eliminated before the kickoff, they’re still playing for a winning record on a season that began at 1-6 and also for a 5-1 finish in the NFC North to set the table for 2023.

Win the turnover battle, win the game

In the first meeting back in Week 9, a game the Lions won 15-9 in Ford Field, turnovers played a huge role in the outcome. Detroit picked off Aaron Rodgers three times. Two of those were red zone interceptions that stymied the Packers on the scoreboard.

The Lions were plus-2 in that matchup. Since that game, Detroit has given the ball away just three times in eight games. Starting with that win over Green Bay, Detroit is plus-11 in turnover margin and has gone 7-2.

The Lions 1st win over the Packers sparked some major stat turnarounds for Detroit

Green Bay has also turned around its season in no small part because of an improvement in turnovers. The Packers defense has 12 takeaways in the last four games, including four in each of the last two. They’ve won all four. Green Bay is plus-9 since Week 9, a span in which the Packers are 5-2.

No lack of motivation

The Lions could be eliminated from the postseason before the opening kickoff. If the Seahawks beat the Rams, and I think they will, Detroit is playing for nothing more than pride.

If anyone thinks that these Lions, Dan Campbell’s Lions, will relent or not play hard just because they can’t make the postseason, they’re in for a very rude awakening. It’s a cockamamie notion to think that this Lions team won’t give 100 percent in trying to win in Green Bay.

A winning record is on the line. A 5-1 NFC North record is on the line. Ruining Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ playoff chances too. The Lions might not win even with all that motivation, but it absolutely will not be from lack of effort or intensity.

Protect Goff and prosper

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Goff is having a torrid second half of the 2022 season. He’s been at his best since December started, when he was arguably the best QB in the entire league.

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One of the big keys is keeping Goff comfortable in the pocket. He’s been sacked just five times in the last five games. When given time to survey the field, Goff has been outstanding at finding the best option and delivering accurate throws with confidence.

Under pressure, everything falls apart for Goff. Per Pro Football Focus, Goff ranks 29th in completion percentage and 26th in QB Rating when under pressure. Those issues have persisted even in his great late season.

Green Bay’s pass rush ranks just 25th in sacks (the Lions are 18th), but they do generate pressure at a league-average rate. They did not sack Goff in the first game, which was one of the best performances of the season for both LT Taylor Decker and C Frank Ragnow. If the Lions want to light up the Packers defense, the offensive line will have to be sharp all game long.

Final prediction

I’ll sum up the prediction with a line that I’ve said at least a hundred times this week on various radio spots and podcasts:

I do not expect the Lions to win, not in Green Bay. But it would not surprise me at all if the Lions win.

The Lions will not be afraid of the opponent or the moment, and they’re just as talented as the Packers. I do think the lack of big-game experience all over the roster is going to trip up the young Lions, and I don’t anticipate Aaron Rodgers or a veteran-laden defense to have quite so many stumbles for Green Bay. Hopefully I’m wrong about that…

Packers 26, Lions 24

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire