A brief overview of three storylines that could help determine the outcome of Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
GREEN BAY – Things can change a lot from one season to the next, but as the Green Bay Packers get ready to conclude their 2017 season, they can expect a pretty rough schedule in 2018, especially on the road.
All the Packers’ opponents are locked in with one week left in the regular season.
The Packers (7-8) are guaranteed to finish in third place in the NFC North even though they could finish in a tie with Detroit at 8-8. The Lions hold a tiebreaker advantage in division record that the Packers can’t overcome.
If the Packers were to win Sunday at Ford Field, head-to-head results would be the first tiebreaker. Since Detroit (8-7) won the first meeting between the two – a 30-17 thrashing at Lambeau Field Nov. 6 – a Packers victory would leave them tied at 1-1.
The next tiebreaker is division record. Detroit is 4-1 in the NFC North and the Packers are 2-3. So, there’s no way the Packers can win that tiebreaker, thus they are locked into third place.
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All but two of the Packers’ opponents are decided based on the NFL’s schedule grid, which ensures that every team plays every other team at least once every four years.
Every year each of the divisions plays everyone in two other divisions, one within the conference and one outside of it. Because the division matchups rotate every year, each team plays all four teams in each of the other seven divisions over a four-year period.
So, next season, the Packers are scheduled to play six games (home and away) within the division, four games with the NFC West and four games with the AFC East. The final two games are scheduled based on a team’s finish in its division.
There has been speculation that the Packers' game against the Rams could be played in London. The Packers won’t give up a home game to play in London because of the huge role they play in the local economy. And other teams don't want to give up a home game against the Packers because it's almost a guaranteed sellout.
But the NFL can compel a team to play a specific game in London if it’s playing in a temporary stadium. The Rams are playing in a temporary home, the Los Angeles Coliseum, for the next three seasons while their permanent stadium is built.
Another London possibility for the Packers would be their 2019 game at the Los Angeles Chargers, who also are playing in a temporary stadium.
As a third-place finisher, the Packers are matched with the third-place finishers in each of the NFC divisions they aren’t scheduled to play. Once again, home and away is predetermined — the NFC South third-place finisher plays on the road and the NFC East third-place finisher plays at home.
Since Atlanta is locked into third place in the NFC South and Washington is locked into third place in the NFC East (it loses a tiebreaker if it ties Dallas), the Packers play Atlanta at home and Washington on the road.
Here is who the Packers will face in 2018:
Home: Arizona, San Francisco, Buffalo, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota.
Away: Los Angeles Rams, Seattle, New England, New York Jets, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota.