The entire 2022 NFL regular season ends on "Sunday Night Football" with a classic NFC North rivalry showdown between the 8-8 Detroit Lions and the 8-8 Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra of professional football's most historic venue, Lambeau Field.
This game has the potential to morph into a winner-take-all contest for the NFC's seventh seed and final wild-card spot between the Lions and the Packers if the Seattle Seahawks lose their home finale against the Los Angeles Rams earlier Sunday. Regardless of that outcome, Green Bay has the opportunity to reach the postseason with a win against Detroit in Week 18.
Even the mere possibility of these two teams squaring off in a winner-take-all game is nothing short of miraculous considering the Lions were 1-6 through their first seven games, and the Packers were 4-8 through their first 12 games. When the Lions started 1-6, they had a 0.3% playoff chance according to SportsLine simulations. Should the Seahawks lose and the Lions win on Sunday, Detroit would become only the second team all time and the first in 52 years, since the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals (1-6), to make the playoffs after winning no more than one of their first seven games.
Following their 4-8 start, the Packers had a 1.1% playoff chance, according to SportsLine simulations. However, if the Packers win, they would become the third team in NFL history to go to the playoffs after winning no more than four of their first 12 games, joining the 2008 San Diego Chargers (4-8) and the 2014 Carolina Panthers (3-8-1).
Being in this spot is familiar territory for the NFL's back-to-back MVP and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers since he's led the Packers to the playoffs twice when his team had a below-.500 record at least 10 games into the year. In 2013, Green Bay was 5-6-1 before winning three of its final four to reach the postseason at 8-7-1. Rodgers powered the Packers to victory in the final game of the 2013 regular season with a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb on fourth-and-8 in the final minute of Green Bay's 33-28 win at Solider Field against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone to play in that game.
In 2016, the Packers began the year 4-6 before ripping off six consecutive wins in which Rodgers threw 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. If the Packers return to the postseason once again, Rodgers will become the first quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to the playoffs during three different seasons in which his team had a below-.500 record at least 10 games into the year
Meanwhile, the Lions have played in three winner-takes-all games in franchise history, losing their first two before coming out victorious their most recent one, a 13-10 win against the New York Jets in Week 17 of the 1997 season. Hall of Famer Barry Sanders ran for 184 yards and the game-winning 15-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
However, that Lions win in 1997 came indoors at the Pontiac Silverdome, very different conditions than the projected weather outlook at Lambeau Field on Sunday: It's projected to be 21 degrees while feeling like 14 degrees with wind coming in at 7 miles per hour with gusts of 12 miles per hour. It's going to be freezing cold. In the quarterback matchup between two California-Berkeley alums, Rodgers and Lions quarterback Jared Goff, it's the California native who has spent 18 NFL seasons living in Green Bay and playing home games outside that has the upper hand in these frigid temperatures.
Careers in freezing temperatures, including playoffs
|Jared Goff||Aaron Rodgers|
No matter what, Sunday night should be a captivating end to the 2022 regular season. Here's everything you need to know:
How to watch
Date: Sunday, Jan. 8 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
TV: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Packers -4.5, O/U 49
When the Lions have the ball
Rodgers isn't the quarterback coming into this prime-time spotlight matchup with flames coming out of his hands, rather that would be Goff, whose 12-0 touchdown-interception ratio since Week 13 leads the NFL in that span. His 12 touchdown passes since that time are tied for the most in the league with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. However, Green Bay's secondary has tightened during its four-game winning streak with nine interceptions, tied for the most in the NFL in that time with the Denver Broncos. Goff has gone eight consecutive games without an interception, the Lions longest streak since 1950.
Passing since Week 13
|Jared Goff||Packers defense|
The Packers defensive turnaround has come with defensive coordinator Joe Barry leaning harder into his zone concepts that his defense is built upon as Green Bay has blitzed at the second lowest rate in the NFL while playing zone coverage at the highest rate in the league during its four-game winning streak. Zone coverage has given Goff more trouble this season since his 89.0 passer rating against zone is 14th in the NFL while his passer rating against man coverage is 114.3, the third highest in the league. That plays into Green Bay's hands.
Packers defensive tendencies in 2022
|1st 12 games||Last 4 games|
However, the holes in the Packers defense are present when guarding against the run and the play-action pass, the latter of which Goff thrives on. The Lions passer leads NFL in passing touchdowns (16) and passer rating (125.9) on play-action this season while Green Bay has allowed the third most passing touchdowns (12) and the third highest passer rating (117.5) against play-action this season. Even during the Packers' four-game winning streak and climb back to an 8-8 record, they allowed an NFL-high 11.8 yards/pass attempt versus play action in that time.
Play-action passing: 2022 NFL ranks
|Jared Goff||Packers defense|
When the Packers have the ball
The Packers offense is about balance and pass protection. Even though Green Bay has Rodgers, it also averages 4.7 yards per carry thanks to running back Aaron Jones' 5.34 yards per carry, the second highest rate in the NFL among running backs behind only Chicago Bears rusher Khalil Herbert's 5.72 yards per carry. Backup running back AJ Dillion has also gotten going as of late as his five straight games with a rushing touchdown are the second longest such streak in the league behind Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's nine-game streak with a rushing score. Getting Jones and Dillon rolling with a number of the Packers' under-center running plays is crucial since Rodgers can then exploit defenses with play-action or quick passes, foundational elements of the Packers offense this season.
When Rodgers does drop back to pass, he's doing so behind Pro Football Focus' third highest-graded, pass-blocking offensive line (78.9) in the entire NFL. Only the Philadelphia Eagles (81.8) and the Baltimore Ravens (80.1) have better pass-protection units than Green Bay's. Their front will be facing a much improved pass rush as the Lions have the sixth highest pressure rate (38.7) in the NFL since Week 9 after ranking 26th in the first eight weeks of the season with a rate of 29.7.
The difference for the Lions pass rush has been the play of their rookies, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft and linebacker James Houston, the 217th overall pick (sixth round) of the 2022 NFL Draft. They are the first pair of rookie teammates with 7.5 or more sacks in a season with Houston's 8.0 and Hutchinson's 7.5. Those figures are the two highest among rookies this season.
However, between the freezing temperatures of Green Bay and the strength of both the Packers secondary and offensive line, Rodgers and the Packers will once again end another NFC North foe's season just short of postseason play.
Score: Packers 31, Lions 18