When the 2017 NFL schedule was announced this spring, the regular-season finale between the Packers and Lions in Detroit looked like it had NFC North showdown with playoff implications written all over it.
Fast forward eight months later and Green Bay and Detroit are out of playoff contention and the Minnesota Vikings are division champions for the second time in three years.
“Minnesota has proven to be the best team—they have the defense and their quarterback and offense have gotten the job done,” former Chicago head coach Mike Ditka said. “For the Packers, losing Aaron Rodgers was a huge blow and they could not recover from it.”
Last Saturday night, the Vikings celebrated in Lambeau Field after a resounding 16-0 victory in frigid temperatures. A few hundred ardent purple-clad Minnesota fans took over the first few rows of seats in the north end zone and cheered wildly as Vikings players departed the field and disappeared into the visitor’s tunnel.
The 7-8 Packers aim to rebound against the 8-7 Lions at Ford Field Sunday in a 12 noon contest between two teams with nothing to play for but pride.
Green Bay did not practice Friday, but their injury report that came out just before 3 p.m. listed 16 players, including six key starters that will miss the Lions game:
Davante Adams (concussion), Jordy Nelson (shoulder), Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder), Jahri Evans (knee), Aaron Jones (knee), and Richard Rodgers (shoulder).
Clay Matthews (hamstring), Mike Daniels (shoulder), Davon House (shoulder/back), Damarious Randall (knee), Ahmad Brooks (back/shoulder), and Clinton Dial (knee) have been limited in practice sessions Wednesday and Thursday. The season’s final walk-through practice on Saturday may well determine their availability.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday the team will play—as always—to win, with the best able-bodied players at his disposal. With the extensive injury list, Green Bay will have to rely by necessity on younger players and reserves such as Michael Clark, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, and Trevor Davis at wide receiver and linebackers Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel on defense.
The Packers defense played solid on Saturday night, holding the Vikings to just 16 points. The offense again sputtered at home under Hundley, who has not thrown a touchdown pass in five starts at Lambeau Field this season.
The offense was also plagued by several key dropped passes that killed drives and two ill-timed interceptions by Hundley thrown right to Minnesota’s Harrison Smith. Hundley has played better on the road, with impressive performances in a loss at Pittsburgh and victories at Chicago and Cleveland.
Week 17 NFL Picks
Packers are on the road, so per his track record this season Hundley will perform better. With so many key starters out, Green Bay can’t match up with Detroit in a contest resembling a preseason finale—and Matthew Stafford again riddles Packers secondary.
Lions 27, Packers 20.