ALLEN PARK — There was a different aura inside the Detroit Lions practice facility during Wednesday’s practice as head coach Dan Campbell reiterated what’s at stake during Sunday’s regular season finale at Green Bay: a potential playoff spot.
As Amon-Ra St. Brown sat at his locker room chair after practice, the Lions second-year receiver did not hesitate to tell ESPN that this upcoming game is the biggest game of his career.
“Yeah, I would say so for sure. I’m excited. My only two prime-time games have been in Lambeau Field at night so I can’t wait to see the atmosphere,” St. Brown told ESPN. “I want to have a good performance but shoot, I want to win the game. That’s the most important thing.”
The Lions-Packers game will headline Sunday Night Football on Jan. 7 at 8:20 pm ET which is their lone prime-time game of the 2022 regular season outside of the Thanksgiving Day Game versus Buffalo.
After a 1-6 start, the 8-8 Lions have a chance at becoming the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs after winning no more than one of their first seven games. That hasn’t happened in 52 years, since the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals — who also started 1-6.
In his third season, much like most of the roster, Lions running back D’Andre Swift hasn’t played in meaningful games that mattered in December or January. In 2020, as a rookie, Swift and the Lions went 5-11 under head coach Matt Patricia and interim Darrell Bevell, then 3-13-1 during Campbell’s first season in 2021.
Like St. Brown, Swift is approaching this Green Bay game like the biggest test of his young career.
“Oh, for sure. Most definitely. It’s a playoff game in my eyes,” Swift said. “Sunday Night Football with everybody watching. It doesn’t get too much better than this.”
After their Week 8 loss to the Dolphins, the Lions had a 0.2 percent chance to reach the playoffs, but that’s now jumped to a 12.5 percent chance, according to ESPN Analytics.
The Packers (8-8) have a 66.7 percent chance while the Seahawks (8-8) have a 20.7 percent chance for the final spot, per ESPN Analytics.
Detroit would need to beat Green Bay at home and Seattle would also have to lose against the Los Angeles Rams for them to get the final Wild Card Spot in the NFC.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff has experienced a Super Bowl run in 2018 with the Rams and played in a slew of big-time games over the course of his career. He feels this current Lions team is up for the challenge after winning seven of their last nine games.
“We’ve been forged through adversity as I’ve said a few times, and there’s not much that can shake us anymore,” Goff said. “We’ve been through the ups-and-downs of a season and feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, suggested that experience can help going into a game with some real stakes on the line.
“I think it matters in the lead-up,” he said. “It matters how people deal with that. We’ve played in some pretty big games over the years and at the same time, it’s a young league. Not a lot of guys in here have been a part of those big games. There’s a smattering of guys for sure, but there’s always new guys that gotta feel what that pressure feels like of a true win-and-in, lose-and-go-home scenario and we’ve had a couple of these over the years against the Lions.”
“I think that helps some of us old guys who have experience with it and then it just depends on how guys handle the anxiety and the pressure leading up to it,” he continued. “And once the game starts, it’s football.”
This Lions-Packers game is unique on each side because both teams have endured five-game losing streaks at some point this season. The winner could join a unique list of teams to lose five consecutive games at some point and still reach the postseason.
There have only been three teams in league history to make the playoffs after being five or more games under .500 at any point (1970 Bengals, 2014 Panthers and 2020 Washington), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Campbell has the squad fired up to try and rewrite history and learn about themselves in the process. He didn’t hold anything back from his guys once they entered the facility this week.
“Well, I feel like let’s find out. That’s why I want them to know exactly the magnitude of this game because they need to know what this feels like and they need to know what they’re walking into and at the very least you find out,” Campbell said. “You find and you figure out who can, you can’t, who’s young, who’s not, who’s mature. But to me that’s the way to approach this one, right now with where we’re at, let’s go.”
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.