There's a palpable feeling in the air, as the playoffs start to appear as a dot on the horizon. It leaves fans to work through knots in their stomachs, as each game carries a season-ending significance.
The NFC North battle between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions will carry such import.
The Lions could be relegated to a spoiler role if they don't steal a much-needed win. Their 4-5 record has wiped out any margin for error if they hope to repeat last year's playoff appearance.
The Packers are in a much more comfortable role, but are running out of time to catch and pass the Chicago Bears. Green Bay must strike now because Jay Cutler's injury presents such an opportunity.
Where: Ford Field in Detroit, MI.
When: 1:00 p.m. EST.
Live Stream: FOX Streaming
Pick Against the Spread: Packers -3.5 (According to Bovada.lv)
The NFL is ridiculously unstable. Just when a team is either pronounced dead or thriving, the team will promptly win or lose, causing everyone question their beliefs.
However, that's not what is going to happen here.
Detroit hasn't been able to put it together this season. Inconsistency has, and will continue to, plague them.
Meanwhile, the Packers get Jordy Nelson back. That means the offense will be even more potent, which will be enough to thwart its own defense's attempts to give the game away.
Over/Under Pick: Over 52 (According to Bovada.lv)
That's a high number, but have you seen either defense lately? They're terrible, and each will be without one or two of their top playmakers. Without any of those players on the field, these high-powered offense will go absolutely nuts. Thus, 26 points apiece doesn't seem so ridiculous.
Key Injuries (According to CBSSports.com)
Packers: WR Donald Driver (thumb, probable); RB Alex Green (knee, probable); WR Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen, out); RB John Kuhn (hamstring, probable); G T.J. Lang (elbow/wrist, probable); LB Clay Matthews (hamstring, out); DE Mike Neal (ankle, probable); WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring/foot, probable); CB Sam Shields (ankle, questionable); TE D.J. Williams (hamstring, probable); S Charles Woodson (collarbone, out); DE Jerel Worthy; and DL Johnny Jolly (suspended).
Lions: DE Cliff Avril (back/concussion, probable); S Erik Coleman (toe, probable); S Louis Delmas (knee, doubtful); K Jason Hanson (left foot, probable); CB Chris Houston (ankle, questionable); WR Calvin Johnson (knee, questionable); S Amari Spievey (concussion, out); DT Corey Williams (knee, out); and WR Titus Young (knee, probable).
Fantasy Big Plays
Calvin Johnson: Not every fantasy decision needs to be difficult. He's hurting, but he's always hurting. That didn't stop him against the Minnesota Vikings (12 rec, 207 yards, 1 TD), and it won't against the Packers.
Randall Cobb: Nelson's return means he's a must-start, but Nelson's success won't come at the cost of Cobb's production. Cobb is a different style of player who does his work with explosion and shiftiness. He'll exploit the middle of the field and the seams to help your fantasy team chase its own playoff aspirations.
Both Quarterbacks: No Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews or Louis Delmas means the points will be ripe for the plucking. Both Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers will happily gather as many as they can and probably a few more.
Keys To a Packers Win
Be who you are. The Packers don't run the ball much; they score gobs of points with their aerial assault. Attack the Lions secondary and use as many short passes and screens as possible to keep the defensive line off of Rodgers.
On defense, Green Bay should drop as many into coverage as possible. Test Stafford's patience and see if you can't bait him into a questionable throw. Interceptions are going to be key since the defense will have a hard time getting off the field on third down.
Keys to a Lions Win
Run Mikel Leshoure. The tempo is going to be fast on the turf in the dome. Detroit can control the timing of the game much more effectively than Green Bay can, and keeping Rodgers on the sideline is never a bad thing.
The defensive line must be dominant. Not good, but dominant. The secondary is shuffling people through, and losing Delmas is a huge blow. Ndamukong Suh and company must harass Rodgers to have a shot at slowing the Packers enough to win.
Green Bay 38, Detroit 31
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