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Packers understand 'huge implications' in Week 17

Green Bay matching and exceeding physicality of division rivals so far


GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur's mantra of "hitting the reset button" could be a bit more challenging this week with the Packers coming off their biggest win of the season to date and with an upcoming opponent on an eight-game losing streak.

Then again, the NFC North-champion Packers still have so much to play for, LaFleur doesn't believe his players will approach their weekly reset any differently than they have all season.

"That's the emphasis, but I think our guys understand what's at stake," LaFleur said Tuesday, as the Packers need a win in Week 17 at Detroit to secure a first-round bye and stay in the hunt for the NFC's No. 1 seed.

"This game has huge implications. You get that bye you're automatically one round further in the playoffs, and certainly we'd love for every game to come through Lambeau."

LaFleur also pointed out that as much as the Lions (3-11-1) might be struggling, with 11 losses in their last 12 games dating back to late September, all the Packers have to do is look at the film from their Week 6 meeting to stay mentally prepared.

Detroit jumped in front of Green Bay 13-0 before the Packers rallied for a one-point, walk-off victory. The Lions no longer have star QB Matthew Stafford, who's on injured reserve, but to wit, the Packers also have a shot at the top seed because the previously four-win Cardinals, playing with a backup QB in the second half, beat the playoff-bound Seahawks at their place just last week.

So as much as LaFleur "felt like the focus last week was at a higher level than what we've seen maybe throughout the entire season," it cannot wane now.

The past two weeks in particular, the Packers prepared themselves for extremely physical battles against their division rivals, the Bears and Vikings. LaFleur talked at the podium repeatedly about expecting physical contests, and it showed in the way the Packers controlled the line of scrimmage for arguably seven of eight quarters (all but the fourth quarter vs. Chicago).

"They have the right mentality," LaFleur said. "You have to get your mind right for that and our guys have done that."

It also has manifested itself in the blocking of the wide receivers, especially against Minnesota on Monday, as running back Aaron Jones topped 100 yards on the ground in the second half alone and finished with a career-high 154. Perimeter blocks were key on both of his TD runs and any others that broke through the line.

"I think that's just kind of who we've become," LaFleur said. "We stress it all the time. We always talk about all 11 and it takes that effort, especially from the receiving corps. It changes the mentality of your offense and that physicalness and desire to go out there and put forth that effort."

Continuing that will go a long way in the regular-season finale at Detroit, as will the belief the team has in itself that it's going to find a way every game even if it doesn't know exactly how at any given time.

LaFleur has rewarded the players by giving them Christmas Day off, with two longer days of preparation awaiting on Thursday and Friday before the team travels to Detroit on the weekend. The coaching staff worked late Christmas Eve and was coming back Christmas afternoon to finalize the game plan for the Lions, which the players will rep in a couple of non-padded workouts on a short week.

The players enjoyed a fairly raucous celebration in the locker room Monday night in Minneapolis, passing out all the division championship gear. As they hit the weekly reset button, they don't want it to be their last celebration of the season.

"Winning's fun. There's nothing like it," LaFleur said. "Just a bunch of high-character guys that care about one another, and they have fun going into games and battling for each other, and I think it really is infectious. These guys are having a ball and I think it can elevate their play."

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