Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions Final Thoughts: Recycled quotes from the NBC network's Sunday Night crew on the Lions and NFC North race; a Lion and Packer to watch; scouting reports on the Lions and the officiating crew and Picks Central – how some national media pick the game, and my fearless (bless me) pick:
Words for thought: As the Lions and Packers separated themselves as the two contenders in the race for first place in the NFC North, tonight's final-game showdown became an ongoing topic of conversation between retired Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, a two-time Super Bowl champ as a safety with the New England Patriots.
With the game now a reality, here are some of their comments – with NBC game analyst Cris Collinsworth chiming in:
Harrison: On picking the Packers to win the North after their win at Chicago -- "Aaron Rodgers is going to step up and play great. But they also made Ty Montgomery, a wide receiver, into a running back. And now they have a running game."
Collinsworth: On Aaron Rodgers' setting up a last-play field goal to beat Chicago on a 60-yard pass to Jordy Nelson -- "He did it again. He did it to Chicago. You can't kill the Packers. Just two or three weeks ago Detroit was a lock to win that division, and now no more. They meet in the final week of the season."
Harrison: On Matthew Stafford's injured finger: "I'm really concerned about Detroit, because you talk about Matthew Stafford hurting his hand, being affected by the weather. But also, if you keep him from scrambling and making plays with his legs, then you can neutralize him."
Dungy:Projecting the Week 17 showdown: "It's going to come down to the last drive. Which quarterback is going to have the ball, and who is going to make the big play to win the division?"
Dungy: Before the Lions' game at Dallas, on who'll win the North -- "I'm still going to say the Lions. They have that game at home."
Dungy: Responding to Harrison questioning how Dungy could go with a quarterback to win the division when he hasn't won a playoff game: "We'll see."
Bottom line: Dungy's right. Either way, we'll see.
Lion to watch – Marvin Jones Jr.: He was rolling early and had a big game against the Packers in Game 3 – six catches for 205 yards and two TDs. Jones got open down the right sideline for a 73-yard TD catch in the last minute of the second quarter, then got behind the secondary to make a 35-yard catch to close out the scoring.
It's been a struggle for Jones since his hot start, but a repeat of his performance in the first Green Bay game – or something close to it -- would do wonders for opening room for the running game and creating opportunities for the other receivers, including tight end Eric Ebron.
Packer to watch – Julius Peppers: He's headed to the Hall of Fame, and part of the reason is the misery he has caused the Lions in his career, whether with Carolina, Chicago or Green Bay.
The Hail Mary TD is the most memorable play in the Packers' win at Ford Field last year, but they wouldn't have been in that spot if it hadn't been for a play by Peppers in the first half.
The Lions had the ball and a 20-7 lead in the third quarter when Peppers beat Riley Reiff on a pass rush to blindside Matthew Stafford on a sack and force a fumble. The Packers recovered and drove to their second TD to cut the deficit to 20-14.
In his 15th NFL season and third with the Packers, Peppers is still a force. He has 7.5 sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Scouting report – Packers' media: Bob McGinn, a highly respected football columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, does a scouting report each week on the Packers' upcoming opponent. This week's column targets Stafford and the coaching staff as the primary reasons the Lions have a 9-6 record.
A couple observations, quoting NFL scouts and personnel executives:
"That coaching staff is something," one personnel executive is quoted as saying. "They're doing a heck of a job with that defense."
Said one scout about the offense: "You look at them. Stafford is the whole thing."
However, another personnel man said Stafford's delivery has been affected somewhat the last two games because of the injury to the middle finger on his right (passing) hand.
Scouting report – Refs: Jerome Boger and crew are working this game. What impact, if any, might they have on the game?
Some stats, as compiled by Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin:
His crew has called the fifth most penalties per game (15.1) and yards per game (125.1) for the two teams combined.
Home teams are 9-5 overall, and 5-1 in the last six games.
Boger's crew has not worked a Lions game since 2014 or a Packers game since 2013. Coincidentally, the 2013 game was against the Lions at Lambeau Field – a 22-9 Packers victory in Week 5. Calvin Johnson did not play because of an injury, and the Lions' only TD was scored in the last three minutes on a pass to Kris Durham.
Since 2008, the Packers are 3-3 and the Lions 1-7 in games worked by Boger and crew. The Lions' one victory was at home over Washington in 2010.
What do the Lions look for when they research a crew doing their game?
"We kind of know what the tendencies are in terms of the calls they make and those kinds of things, which you would expect," said Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. "We look at all of that information."
1993 Packers-Lions flashback: With Barry Sanders out with a knee injury until the playoffs started, the Lions turned to Eric Lynch to carry the running load. Lynch was an unlikely candidate. He made the roster in 1992 as an undrafted rookie out of Woodhaven and Grand Valley State.
With the Central division title on the line in the last game, Lynch came through with 30 carries for 115 yards and two TDs. The 215 yards represented more than half of the 209 yards he gained he his five seasons as a Lion.
Picks Central: How some NFL experts handicap the game:
ESPN panel: 8-2 for the Packers. Ron Jaworski and Mike Golic picked the Lions.
CBSSports panel: 7-1 for the Packers.
National columnist Pete Prisco: Packers 31, Lions 27.
USA Today panel: 5-0 for Packers.
National columnist Jarrett Bell: Packers 26, Lions 24.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Packers 27, Lions 24. Comment: "This is the big momma of Week 17." How about Big Daddy? Or Big Papi?
My pick: Lions 26, Packers 23.