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Lions vs. Packers preview: Rodgers is red hot

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Aaron Rodgers

James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers game at Ford Field (8:30 p.m., NBC, WJR 760).

Packers to watch

Aaron Rodgers, QB: No quarterback has been playing at a higher level over the past month than Rodgers. He has vaulted into MVP contention, throwing 11 TDs and no INTs during Green Bay’s five-game win streak, highlighted by a five-TD performance against Minnesota last week. Rodgers leads the league with 36 passing TDs, and ranks fourth in passing yards (4,128) and fifth in passer rating (102.7).

Jordy Nelson, WR: Rodgers’ favorite target is a front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year after missing last season with a torn ACL. Nelson has been on a tear, averaging 7.6 catches for 105.6 yards and a TD over the past five games. He also leads the league with 14 receiving TDs, is tied for fifth in receptions (91) and ranks sixth in receiving yards (1,191).

Nick Perry, OLB: Despite missing two games with a broken left hand, the Detroit native recorded two sacks while wearing a bulky club cast in last week’s win, tying his season-high set in Week 3 win against Detroit. Perry is having a career year with 50 tackles, 10 sacks (tied for 10th in the league), four passes defensed and an interception.

 

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Packers

Intangibles

Title up for grabs: With a playoff spot and first place in the NFC North on the line, Detroit has a chance to claim its first NFC North title and finish atop its division for the first time since 1993, when it won the NFC Central, in the winner-take-all showdown. Green Bay is vying for its fifth division crown in six seasons.

Muddled picture: For the second straight week, the Lions play in the primetime game and could back into a playoff spot with some help. If the New York Giants beat Washington, Detroit would lock up a wild-card spot. Depending on the results of the Falcons and Seahawks games, the Lions could be the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed in the NFC or miss the playoffs altogether with a loss and Washington win.

Lethal connection: The key for Detroit will be slowing down QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Jordy Nelson, who shredded the defense in the first meeting. In the Week 3 win, Rodgers threw for 205 yards four TDs and Nelson tallied six catches for 101 yards and two scores. It’ll be even tougher if the Lions are without CB Darius Slay (hamstring) for the second straight game, especially with Rodgers regaining his mobility after being hampered by calf and hamstring injuries.

Defend the den: The Lions return to Ford Field after back-to-back double-digit losses on the road. Detroit has won six straight at home in tight-knit fashion, with five wins by three points or less. But after playing on Monday night, the Lions will be playing on short rest, while the Packers will be coming into the matchup with two extra days rest.

 

Lions' Theo Riddick placed on IR, ending season

Facts and figures

* Detroit has won two of the last three meetings against Green Bay at Ford Field.

* The Lions have six turnovers and no takeaways in their last three games, while the Packers have no turnovers and 12 takeaways over the same span.

* In the past three games, Green Bay is averaging 35.3 points and 376.3 yards on offense, and giving up 20.7 points and 416.3 yards on defense.

* QB Matthew Stafford, who will be playing in his 109th career game, needs 44 yards to reach 30,000 career passing yards and pass Dan Marino and Kurt Warner (114 games) as the fastest player to reach the milestone.

* The Lions are the fifth team to have five players with at least 50 catches in a season – WR Golden Tate (85), WR Anquan Boldin (63), RB Theo Riddick (53), TE Eric Ebron (53) and WR Marvin Jones (50) – joining the 1980 Browns, 1994 Patriots, 2011 Saints and 2013 Broncos.

* Per makenflplayoffs.com, the Lions have a 75.1 percent chance to make the playoffs and 49.9 percent chance to win the NFC North.