Some games mean more than others and are bigger than others.
The Detroit Lions' win over the Green Bay Packers was one of those games that meant more than others.
That's what we learned as the Lions began their offseason Monday still savoring their 20-16 win over the Packers Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
The Lions had been eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the day by the Seattle Seahawks' win over the Los Angeles Rams in overtime. The Lions' mission in Sunday night's game was to beat the Packers and eliminate them from the playoffs.
With the Lions' win, it was mission accomplished. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown started to smile when asked what it was like to walk out of Lambeau after beating the Packers.
"It was a lot of fun," he said.
Among the other things we learned include the following: The Lions expect to be legitimate playoff contenders next season, based on their 9-8 record for the season and 8-2 record in the last 10 games; the Lions showed in the regular season that they didn't have to put up big numbers to win games, and rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams should have an expanded role next year compared to the limited role he had in the six games he played this season.
We start with the Lions' win over the Packers:
No doubt, it stung the Lions to know that their playoff hopes ended when the Seahawks beat the Rams, but that did not leave them without motivation to go out and play hard to win.
"For us as players, it was more than just playoffs for you," St. Brown said. "We couldn't control what the Seahawks did in that game, but we could control what we did.
"I feel like a lot of people wrote us off before the game. If we couldn't go to the playoffs, the Packers couldn't, either."
Power shift: The Packers are no longer kings in the NFC North after winning 13 games the previous season and 12 the season before that.
The Packers have skidded to 8-9 and in third place, with the Vikings leading at 13-4 and the Lions second at 9-8.
Despite the Vikings' superior record, many analysts consider the Lions the stronger team of the future. That translates to being playoff contenders.
St. Brown thinks that is an accurate assessment of the NFC North pecking order.
"Definitely," he said. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't."
Adding speed: Quarterback Jared Goff already looks forward to working with rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams in the offense.
The Lions drafted Williams 12th overall, despite a knee injury sustained in his final game at Alabama that limited him to playing in only the last six games.
Williams was targeted six times this year and had one catch, for a 41-yard TD. He had a 66-yard TD catch and run called back Sunday because of a penalty. Previously, he had a 40-yard run on a reverse.
"He's as talented as anyone I've been around," Goff said. "We've gotten him the ball three times, and it's been three big plays."
Versatility: The Lions had it on offense, even though they were known for how they piled up points and yards. They ranked fourth with 380 yards per game and fifth in points with 26.6 per game.
The Lions had two blowout wins – 40-14 over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and 41-10 over the Bears. They even had a blowout loss – 48-45 to Seattle.
But the Lions also proved that they could grind it out. Three of their wins were with 20 points scored or fewer – 20-17 over the Jets and 15-9 and 20-16 over that team in Green Bay.