The Packers are coming off a Thanksgiving day loss to the Bears, and would love nothing more than to ... well, not lose again on national television to a division rival. Can Green Bay avoid its first season sweep by the Lions since 1991? Don Banks makes his pick for Thursday Night Football below.
• Last week: 11–5; Season: 112–64 (.636).
• Best pick in Week 12: Tie, Denver 24, New England 20 (Actual score: Denver 30, New England 24, OT); Kansas City 27, Buffalo 17 (Actual score: Kansas City 30, Buffalo 22).
• Worst pick in Week 12: Jacksonville 29, San Diego 13 (Actual score: Chargers 31–25).
Remember when the Vikings signed Brett Favre in 2009 and proceeded to sweep the season series from Green Bay, with No. 4 winning first in Minneapolis in Week 4 that season, and then finishing the job with a victory in his much-ballyhooed return to Lambeau Field in Week 8? Well, that was the last time the Packers lost twice to a division opponent in the same season, and Green Bay hasn’t gone 0–2 against the Lions since 1991. But that’s what’s the Packers are trying to avoid tonight at Ford Field, when they face Detroit for the second time in 19 days.
These are indeed strange days for the Packers, whose pattern so far this year has been to lose at home to their division foes (Lions and Bears), while winning on the road (Bears and Vikings). For all the understandable angst in Green Bay when it comes to the state of the team’s offense, there is this nugget of sanity to cling to: If the Packers can stay within a game of first-place Minnesota, they still control their own fate, because a Week 17 win at home against the Vikings would deliver a season series sweep and a fifth consecutive NFC North championship.
The Lions’ 18–16 upset win at Lambeau in Week 10 really kick-started something for Jim Caldwell’s team. Detroit (4–7) followed that victory up with two home wins against Oakland and Philadelphia, and now has a chance to build a four-game winning streak and fight its way to the cusp of NFC wild-card contention. Even better, if the Lions can beat the sputtering Packers (7–4), their final four opponents are all currently under .500, meaning a pathway to 9–7 actually exists.
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have been making beautiful music together again in the Lions passing game, with three scoring connections in Detroit’s blowout of the Eagles on Thanksgiving, and much of the credit belongs to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who has both the coolest name in the NFL and the foresight to feed the ball to his best player. Detroit’s having fun, but I still expect Green Bay’s desperation to decide this game. The Packers are too good to keep grasping forever on offense, and I think just enough Eddie Lacy rushing yardage will open up some throwing lanes for Aaron Rodgers to squeak out a narrow and much-needed win.