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Here are 5 things to watch as the Green Bay Packers face the Detroit Lions on Sunday

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Here are 5 things to watch as the Green Bay Packers face the Detroit Lions on Sunday:

1. How will David Bakhtiari and Josh Myers be used?

Myers is playing for sure and Bakhtiari is a good bet. The question is whether coach Matt LaFleur eases them into action or puts them in the starting lineup. Myers hasn’t played since injuring his knee in Week 6 and just returned to practice. Bakhtiari hasn’t played a down all year and just returned to practice this past week after two setbacks with his surgically repaired knee. Chances are LaFleur goes with his normal starting five and at some point inserts each guy into the lineup, perhaps at different times. Whatever the case, it will be worth watching closely how they perform against a scrappy Lions defensive front led by free agent Charles Harris, who has 63 tackles and 7½ sacks. “I think there's a lot of variables that weigh into the decisions,” LaFleur said of playing his two former starting offensive linemen. 

2. Lions bring the beef in the run game

Detroit ranks 10th in the NFL in rushing average at 4.46 yards per carry and the Lions like to spread the carries among running backs and receivers alike. Seven players have a rush of 25 or more yards and nine have a rush of 20 or more. The strength of their run game is their offensive line. Even with talented center Frank Ragnow on injured reserve, the addition of first-round tackle Penei Sewell, the development of ’20 third-round pick Jonah Jackson and the steadiness of left tackle Taylor Decker has turned the offensive line into a strength. What’s more, the Lions rank second to the New Orleans Saints in using “jumbo” formations when they bring in a sixth offensive lineman. It means the Packers may go to four defensive linemen upfront and one of those will be rookie T.J. Slaton, who has gradually gotten more and more playing time. “He's got to be a first- and second-down run-stuffer, period, point blank,” defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said. “We really need him.” 

3. Rookie treatment over for maturing corner Eric Stokes

When the playoffs roll around, the Packers are hoping to get cornerback Jaire Alexander back. They won’t hesitate to play him, but one thing they don’t want to do is kill the momentum rookie Eric Stokes has built this season. Early in the year, teams threw at him constantly and he took some lumps. But recently teams aren’t going his direction as much, which might explain why Rasul Douglas gets so many interception opportunities. They need Stokes to go into the playoffs with confidence and getting him to cause a turnover or break up a touchdown in a clutch situation would be ideal. “You let them catch a lot of touchdowns on you, they’re going to keep coming at you every week,” said Jerry Gray, defensive passing game coordinator. “But until you figure out that, ‘You know what, I’ve got to be able to step up and play on my own,' and then knock some balls down and hope to get some interceptions, then they'll leave you alone. Because in this league, they pick on the weak guy, they don't pick on the strong guys up here.” 

4. Jordan Love needs to reward Packers for their patience

Whether it’s after one series or one quarter or one half, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming out of the game. And then it will be Jordan Love’s turn. Love mopped up against Minnesota last week and looked pretty good doing it, but this will be a much better test. He’s going to get a chance to show he can move the team up and down the field and he needs to play with a lot more authority than he did in his only start against Kansas City in midseason. The Packers don’t know what will happen with Rodgers in the offseason and it would help a lot if they had something more concrete to help them believe in Love. LaFleur said they won’t have a specific script for Love. “I think it's, it's all just where we are in the game, what the situation is, what the score is,” LaFleur said. “We’ll kind of let it unfold naturally.” 

5. Packers need to come out of the game healthy

Going into the game, the only players on the 53-man roster who were declared out were cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and defensive end Kingsley Keke (illness). Unless running back Aaron Jones (knee) and inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (elbow) can’t play, the Packers are an extremely healthy team going into Week 18. Ford Field has taken its toll on the Packers over the years and LaFleur is going to have to pay attention to the tenor of the game and get his best players out if it turns into a slugfest. The most important thing for the team is that it comes out of the game clean.

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