Aaron Rodgers led a last-quarter comeback against the Jets last week, looking like the Rodgers Green Bay fans thought was lost all season.
Combined with the Vikings’ solid victory over the Lions, Rodgers’ heroics ended any notion of the Packers finishing last in the division.
Instead, that honor will go to Matt Stafford’s Lions. Stafford finished with just 116 yards passing last week, almost assuring him of finishing the season with less than 4,000 for just the third time in his career. When he was removed late in the game, fans cheered his backup.
Injuries derailed the Lions’ offense late in the season, but fans are still disappointed that Matt Patricia didn’t improve on his predecessor’s perpetual 7-9 win standard.
There are signs of progress in relationships and team identity as the defensive-minded head coach goes into 2019 with a solid difference maker in the run defense backed by fast linebackers.
Rookie Kerryon Johnson looks like he can lead a solid running attack to help Stafford and the passing game. LeGarrette Blount could be looking for his fourth team in four years.
Green Bay enters 2019 full of question marks. Rumors of a prima donna quarterback and a roster full of offensive holes taint the prestige of coaching the historical franchise. What other changes will occur?
Injuries and notes
Bruce Ellington was placed on injured reserve before last week’s game, further depleting the Lions’ receiving corps. Tight end Luke Wilson is in the concussion protocol.
For Green Bay, Randall Cobb and right tackle Jason Spriggs are in the concussion protocol. Right guard Lane Taylor is also questionable with a knee injury.
Matt Patricia’s regimented style led to some head-butting early in the season. But his continued mantra about how he cares about the well-being of his players and the family-like atmosphere of a locker room is softening some stances. Patricia gave the team off Monday despite their loss, telling his players to enjoy their families over Christmas and forget about football for a couple of days.
Heartfelt or calculated, that won’t hurt Patricia’s standing with his charges.
Joe Philbin is hoping someone will notice a strong finish by the Packers and consider him for coaching openings in 2019. But he hasn’t deployed any great strategic changes. 17 penalties by the Jets, many of them questionable, and Philbin’s two missed challenges the week before are not enough to get past the rumors of Rodgers controlling the offensive game plan.
How to watch the Packers-Lions game
Fox Sports will send this game to local affiliates, which means you can watch it for free on DirecTV Now. Internet TV providers like DirecTV Now, Fubo TV, and Sling have all the local and national channels you need to follow your favorite NFL team.
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Who will win the Packers-Lions game?
For all the problems Green Bay has had this season, they still play well at home. Detroit might put up a fight as players audition for roles in 2019, but the Packers know 7-8-1 is much better than a 6-win season.