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Lions 'excited' for primetime Pack test with playoff hopes still alive

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ALLEN PARK — There was a different aura inside the Detroit Lions’ training facility during Wednesday’s practice, as head coach Dan Campbell reiterated what’s at stake during Sunday’s regular season finale in Green Bay: a possible berth in the playoffs.

While Amun-Ra St. Brown sat in his locker room chair after practice, the Lions sophomore receiver didn’t hesitate to tell ESPN that this upcoming game is the biggest game of his career.

“Yeah, I’d say sure. I’m excited. My only two primetime games have been at Lambeau Field at night, so I can’t wait to see the atmosphere,” St. Louis said. Brown on ESPN. “I want to put on a good performance, but I want to 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 the only primetime game of the 2022 regular season outside of the Thanksgiving Day game against Buffalo.

After a 1-6 start, the 8-8 Lions have a shot 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, like most of the roster, Lions running back D’Andre Swift did not play in significant 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.

How St. Brown, Swift is approaching this Green Bay game as the biggest test of her young career.

“Oh, absolutely. Definitely. It’s a playoff game in my eyes,” Swift said. “Sunday Night Football with everybody watching. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

After their Week 8 loss to the Dolphins, the Lions had a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs, but have now jumped to a 12.5% ​​chance, according to ESPN Analytics.

The Packers (8-8) have a 66.7% chance, while the Seahawks (8-8) have a 20.7% chance of reaching the final spot, according to ESPN Analytics.

Detroit would need to beat Green Bay at home and Seattle would also have to lose to the Los Angeles Rams to get the ultimate Wild Card Spot in the NFC.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff made the 2018 Super Bowl with the Rams and played in a number of key games throughout his career. He feels the current Lions squad is up for the challenge after winning seven of their last nine games.

“We were forged by adversity, as I’ve said a few times, and there’s not much else that can shake us,” said Goff. “We went through the ups and downs of a season and we feel really good about where we are now.”

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, suggested that experience could help go into a game with some real stakes in play.

“I think it’s important in preparation,” he said. “It’s important how people deal with it. We’ve played in some big games over the years and at the same time it’s a young league. There’s not a lot of guys here who’ve played in those big games. There’s a handful of guys for sure, But there are always new guys who need to feel the pressure of a real win-in, lose-go-home scenario and we’ve had quite a few of them over the years against the Lions.”

“I think it helps some of us older guys who have experience with it and it just depends on how the guys deal with the anxiety and pressure that leads up to it,” he continued. “And when the game starts, it’s football.”

This Lions-Packers game is unique on either side because both teams have suffered five consecutive losses at some point this season. The winner can join a unique roster of teams to lose five straight games at some point and still make the postseason.

There have only been three teams in league history to make the playoffs after five or more games under . 500 at any point (1970 Bengals, 2014 Panthers and 2020 Washington), according to the ESPN Stats & Information poll.

Campbell has the squad excited to try and rewrite history and learn about themselves in the process. He held nothing back from his guys when they entered the facility this week.

“Well I feel like we’re going to find out. That’s why I want them to know exactly the magnitude of this game because they need to know what it’s like and they need to know what they’re getting into and at least you find out,” Campbell said. “You meet and find out who can, who can’t, who’s young, who’s not, who’s mature. But for me that’s the way to approach this one, now with where we are, let’s go.”

ESPN’s Rob Demovski contributed to this report.