The Lions’ first season under Matt Patricia has trudged along, void of playoff hopes as of late, but it’s almost to the finish line. Detroit has just one game left before a critical offseason, and that will take place against an NFC North rival who is having a similarly disappointing year.
The 5-10 Lions will travel to Green Bay to take on the 6-8-1 Packers in a battle of the two divisional teams not heading to the playoffs. The Bears have wrapped up the division crown at 10-4, and the Vikings are pushing for the final wildcard sport at 7-6-1.
Minnesota enjoyed a 27-9 victory over Detroit on Sunday at Ford Field, a loss that just exacerbated the Lions’ woes. Detroit has now lost six of eight games since trading Golden Tate to the Eagles, and Sunday’s defeat was its sixth by double digits this season.
The Lions did beat the Packers in their earlier matchup at Ford Field. Detroit rode a hot start and a miserable day from Packers kicker Mason Crosby to claim a 31-23 victory in Week 5.
That was the game in which Jamal Agnew hurt his knee. The second-year punt returner and nickel cornerback went to injured reserve for a spell but just came back to take part in Sunday’s defeat. The development of him and other young players becomes the focus now for Detroit, even though its two best rookies are currently on injured reserve.
The Lions are likely to monitor Matthew Stafford’s health again this week. The franchise quarterback has been battling a back injury amid a frustrating season, and Patricia pulled him in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss in order to play Matt Cassel instead.
Stafford is almost surely going to start in order to keep his consecutive starts streak alive, but it’s possible the Lions could pull him at some point again, particularly if the Packers get up by a good amount.
That’s a possibility now that Green Bay has won two of three games since firing coach Mike McCarthy. The Packers stormed back to beat the Jets 44-38 in overtime on Sunday, thanks to 442 yards from Aaron Rodgers. The Lions lost 38-17 to the Jets in Week 1.
This matchup doesn’t quite have the appeal of some of the Week 17 Lions-Packers games of recent history. Detroit played Green Bay with the division title on the line in the final week in 2014 and 2016, with the Packers winning both times. The two met in Week 17 last year as well, but both were eliminated from the playoffs like they are this season.
Detroit was enjoying a better season then, as a win over the Packers sealed a second straight 9-7 season. This year hasn’t gone nearly as well, partly due to injuries and partly due to the regression of veterans like Stafford.
It’s been a tough transition from Jim Caldwell to Patricia. A win in the final game won’t make this a successful year, but it could build a little bit of momentum as the team heads into an offseason that will be all about retooling the roster and fixing the culture.