The Detroit Lions close out the season with yet another finale against the Green Bay Packers. Putting aside “learning experiences” and “personal pride,” neither team has anything to play for. The Lions, pending a huge upset from the Jaguars over the Colts, are essentially locked into the No. 2 spot in the draft. The Packers, on the other end of the spectrum, have locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
And still, every indication is that each team will be giving its all on Sunday. The Lions have never been one to stand down from a fight under head coach Dan Campbell while everyone in Green Bay says they want to play to avoid rust accumulation from three weeks of rest.
Despite that, the Packers aren’t even field-goal favorites over Detroit this week. And while an upset seems very unlikely for the Lions if the Packers starters play all game, let’s take a closer look to see if this Packers team is as good as advertised.
Here’s our Week 18 scouting report.
Green Bay Packers
2021 season thus far (13-3)
Week 1: Lost to Saints, 3-38
Week 2: Beat Lions, 35-17
Week 3: Beat 49ers, 30-28
Week 4: Beat Steelers, 27-17
Week 5: Beat Bengals, 25-22 (OT)
Week 6: Beat Bears, 24-14
Week 7: Beat WTF, 24-10
Week 8: Beat Cardinals, 24-21
Week 9: Lost to Chiefs, 7-13
Week 10: Beat Seahawks, 17-0
Week 11: Lost to Vikings, 31-34
Week 12: Beat Rams, 36-28
Week 13: BYE
Week 14: Beat Bears, 45-30
Week 15: Beat Ravens, 31-30
Week 16: Beat Browns, 34-22
Week 17: Beat Vikings, 37-10
- 10th in points scored (26.3 PPG), 8th in points against (20.9 PPG)
- 8th overall in DVOA (2nd on offense, 19th on defense, 32nd on special teams)
- Offensive DVOA: 2nd in pass offense, 8th in run offense
- Defensive DVOA: 12th in pass defense, 28th in run defense
Last week, the Packers locked up the first seed in the NFC and the best record in the NFL. It’s Super Bowl or bust for a team that could see some drastic changes this offseason.
Of course, I’m referring to Aaron Rodgers, who is likely in the midst of his fourth MVP season. Rodgers leads the NFL in TD percentage, INT percentage, passer rating, and QBR. He ranks fifth in yards per attempt and fourth in PFF grade. I don’t need to convince you he’s one of the greatest QBs of all time.
Another player whose future is unknown is wide receiver Davante Adams, who also happens to be having a career year. Though his touchdowns are down from 18 to a measly 11, he has set a career-high with 1,498 receiving yards, ranking third in the NFL.
The offense is certainly one of the best in the NFL, and the defense is improved from last year, but is that the unit that could hold Green Bay back from winning it all?
Per usual, the Packers’ run defense is suspect—something the Lions could potentially expose this Sunday. They’re allowing a league-high 4.8 yards per carry this season and rank 28th in DVOA. That said, they do have one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in Kenny Clark.
Their pass defense is significantly better, but nothing special. Granted, they’ve been missing their top corner (Jaire Alexander) and one of their best pass rushers (Za’Darius Smith) for the majority of the season. Still, they manage to generate a decent amount of pressure (38 sacks, t-13th) and have managed 18 interceptions, good for fifth in the NFL. That secondary is led by Rasul Douglas, a former Eagles third-round pick, who is having a career year in his first season with Green Bay. Douglas has five interceptions on the season and ranks 18th among NFL cornerbacks in PFF grade.
Overall, this is a well-balanced team that has been more consistent than every team in the NFL. Remember that one of their three losses came with Aaron Rodgers at home due to COVID. But this is also a team that has squeaked by against lesser opponents. Their point differential—despite having the best record in the league—ranks 10th. They’re 6-2 in one-score games.
This team is very good, quite possibly the best in the NFL, but they aren’t invincible.
Key injuries: WR Randall Cobb (IR), TE Robert Tonyan (IR), G Elgton Jenkins (IR), LB Whitney Mercilus (IR), G Josh Myers, EDGE Za’Darius Smith (IR), OT David Bakhtiari (knee)
COVID list: CB Jaire Alexander, G Billy Turner
The Packers have had some tough luck this year due to injury, losing stars like Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander for most of the season.
But where they’ve really been hit hard is the offensive line. They’ve got two starters on IR, David Bakhtiari has missed every game this season, and now Billy Turner—who was already dealing with a knee injury—is on the reserve/COVID-19. And, remember, this was a unit that lost All Pro Corey Linsley last offseason.
Yet, they keep humming along. The Packers rank eighth in PFF’s pass-blocking statistic, second in run blocking, sixth in ESPN’s pass-block win rate, and fifth in run-block win rate. This seems to always be the case with the Packers. The personnel barely even matters. Their offensive line always seems to be dominant.
Biggest strength: Passing game
When your quarterback is having an MVP season, and one of the best wide receivers in the NFL is having a career year, you’re going to have a pretty good time throwing the ball.
Biggest weakness: Special teams
The Packers’ special teams unit has been a disaster all season. How bad? Take a look:
- 30th in kick return average (17.3)
- 25th in punt return average (7.3)
- 27th in kick coverage average (25.7)
- 31st in punt coverage average (12.8)
Even kicker Mason Crosby has struggled this year. The veteran kicker has made just 72.7 percent of his kicks, which is his lowest percentage since 2012. He’s had four (of 12) misses from 30-39 yards, four (of eight) misses from 40-49 yards. That being said, he’s been perfect for the last four weeks.
Vegas odds for Sunday: Packers by 2.5