Packers Are Slugging It Out In The North
Back on Friday, I wrote an article explaining why the Green Bay Packers weren’t in a must-win situation heading into their showdown with the Detroit Lions. While I strongly believe the Packers still could have climbed back out of a 1-3 hole to make the playoffs, their 22-9 victory over the Lions was by far their biggest win in their very young 2013 season.
Had the Packers lost Sunday, their first quarter of the year would have resulted in a 1-3 record overall and 0-1 in the NFC North. The Lions would have stood 2.5 games ahead of the Packers in overall record and two in the division record. Now, The Lions are 3-2 and 2-1, while the Packers are 2-2 and 1-0. The Packers also preserved their home-field advantage over the Lions in the season series. There’s no way they would have wanted to go into Detroit on Thanksgiving Day already down 0-1 to their division rival.
Green Bay’s climb up the ranks of the NFC North didn’t stop with the win over Detroit. The Chicago Bears, who also were ahead of the Packers with a 3-1 and 1-1 record heading into Sunday, lost to the New Orleans Saints. The Packers also distanced themselves from the cellar-dwelling Minnesota Vikings (1-3, 0-2), who were on a bye week and unable to make up any ground in the playoff race.
The biggest boost for the Packers may have come before the game even began. The Lions decided to scratch Calvin Johnson from the lineup due to knee soreness, the man who has owned the Packers more so than anyone else in the NFL. He has more catches (65), receiving yards (1,062) and receiving touchdowns (11) in his career against the Packers than any other team. The absence of Johnson allowed the Packers to key in on the dynamic Reggie Bush, the frontrunner to win all breakout and/or most improved player awards. Bush only rushed for 44 yards and caught four balls for 25 more yards and didn’t score on the day. No Johnson and no Bush equals no offense for the Lions. The Packers’ defense limited the usually explosive Detroit offense to only 286 total yards while sacking Matthew Stafford five times.
With their win, the Packers’ road to both the playoffs and division crown has become a much easier one. Instead of being down 2.5 and 1.5 games to the Lions and Bears, respectively, the Packers sit only half a game behind each of them. And instead of being tied with the lowly Vikings, they’re a game up from last place.
A loss would not have been the end of the world. Green Bay’s schedule from here on out is no murderer’s row. But what a world of difference one win makes. Instead of possible pressing heading into Baltimore next week, the Packers have regained their confidence and are ready to take on the remaining three quarters of the season head on.