Most people who watch the Week 18 game between Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions will see a glorified preseason game. The Packers are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the Lions essentially have the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft locked in.
But if you were to ask either team if this game matters, they would both answer with a resounding âyesâ. For the Packers, it’s an opportunity to stay cool on a track instead of taking a three-week break between games. For the Lions, it’s just another chance to compete and play this game they love. Jared Goff has no reason to play this game, but it looks like he will because he’s a competitor.
With one final game before the Lions enter the sophomore year of the Dan Campbell era, there’s still plenty to watch for in Detroit’s season finale. Let me convince you why you should watch Lions vs Packers.
Ifetu Melifonwu v Davante Adams, second leg
The Lions are in bad shape at the cornerback with multiple injuries, but the silver lining is it’s an opportunity to give third-round rookie Ifetu Melifonwu some valuable experience. After missing 10 games with injury, Melifonwu is back in the lineup and has faced some of the best in the league since returning to the roster. He faced Kyle Pitts in his first full week and he faced DK Metcalf last week. While he hasn’t played particularly well against good receivers, it’s definitely an important part of his learning process.
Melifonwu’s job doesn’t get any easier this week against Packers top receiver Davante Adams. It’s unclear how many Adams will play, but it won’t be the first time the two have faced off. Back in Week 2, Melifonwu was on Adams for most of the game and held his ground until he gave up a 50-yard pass on the play he injured himself on.
If he can show some of the same promise he showed on Monday night, that will be a good confidence booster heading into the offseason.
Can Jared Goff end on a high note?
The last time we saw Jared Goff, he had just had his best time as the Lion of Detroit. In his last four starts, he’s completed 69.5% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 105.1 passer rating. While nothing he has done has completely erased some of the mistakes he made early in the season, he is starting to deserve extra consideration going forward.
Goff was still going to be a part of the 2022 squad, but now that he’s more comfortable in that team’s offense, besides having a few more receiving weapons at his disposal, it’s clear that he’s playing at a higher level.
We’re heading into an offseason where the quarterback will be a hot topic here in Detroit. Whether it’s drafting a quarterback with one of their first-round picks or adding some free agency competition, chatter happens. If Goff can end the 2021 season on a high note, he could give some comfort to some Lions fans if Detroit chooses to kick a quarterback’s box. It won’t be easy, however, against a good defense from the Packers.
How will Derrick Barnes, Levi Onwuzurike respond to criticism?
At the very least, head coach Dan Campbell has been honest in his public evaluations of his players. This week, he did not shrink from the poor performance of these two beginner defenders. Of linebacker Derrick Barnes he said, âHe needs to play better, and I thought he took a step back. We need more of our stack-backers.
As for defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, he said: âHe’s had some ups and downs. He flashed. Dude, he’s showing up, and the next play is a learning experience. At the next game, he shows up. After the game, it’s a learning experience. So there is only a certain inexperience that he still has to overcome – bumps in the road – which he will do. “
Both have been underwhelming in their first year, but Campbell’s public push has worked well for the other players. Is it possible that the two will show up in their rookie season finals?
Will AndrÃ© Swift blink again?
Swift’s return last week was disappointing to say the least. He only touched the ball six times and while he turned those touches into 39 yards, 30 of them came in a draw late in the half.
Sadly, Swift has indicated that he doesn’t think the game plan will change when it comes to his limited use.
âI think it’s probably going to be the same,â Swift said Thursday. âI’m not sure what that looks like on the note sheet or on a piece of paper. But just talking to the coaches throughout the week, it’ll likely be the same process. ”
But maybe the Lions are playing shyly here. Running backs coach Duce Staley said last week they were “full steam ahead” with Swift, and that didn’t turn out to be true. So maybe the star running back will recapture the leadership position this week and give us another big performance against a vulnerable Packers defense.
Can Detroit enter the offseason with positive momentum?
Look, I’m not the type to believe in the momentum from season to season. With all the roster changes this team is likely to go through this offseason, we could see less than half of the players involved in Sunday’s game on next year’s roster of 53.
But I realize I’m in the minority here, and a good performance – if not a win – against the Packers on Sunday will accomplish some things. This will show that this team has really maintained a positive culture throughout the year. This will establish that the players gave this team their all until the final whistle of the season. And, yes, maybe that will make a believer or two among the players whose future with the team is uncertain.
Plus, with nothing to lose in the draft position after a Week 18 win, who doesn’t love beating the Packers?