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Packers clinch NFC North, bye with win over Lions

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The Green Bay Packers clinched the NFC North and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a 30-20 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. This game took a dark turn for the Packers when Aaron Rodgers collapsed to the turf after aggravating his left calf strain in the second quarter. Rodgers limped to the sidelines and was eventually carted to the locker room. The game went from 14-0 to 14-14 in Rodgers' absence. Rodgers returned in the third quarter, and in true MVP fashion, immediately led Green Bay to the go-ahead touchdown. This is an invaluable victory that gives Rodgers two weeks of recovery time before the Packers play again.

2. The Lions can only lament at what might have been. This was a tie game in the third quarter with Matt Flynn at quarterback for the Packers. Things went downhill once Rodgers pulled his Willis Reed maneuver, and now Detroit will head to Dallas for a Wild Card round matchup against the 12-4 Cowboys. This was Detroit's first loss in December.

3. Ndamukong Suh strikes again. The Lions' defensive tackle stepped on Rodgers' left ankle/calf area with his right and left foot after a Rodgers completion midway through the fourth quarter. Rodgers was livid after the play, slapping at Suh while he was on the ground. You can expect the league to take a look at the play, which Suh will assuredly explain as inadvertent and unfortunate. History tells us we shouldn't buy it.

4. Calvin Johnson caught both of Matthew Stafford's touchdown throws, but Green Bay's secondary did an otherwise excellent job holding Johnson and Golden Tate to a combined seven catches for 84 yards. The Packers' secondary won't be considered a weak link this January.

5. Combine the victory with the drama of the whole affair, and it feels like Rodgers (17 of 22, 226 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing score) locked up his second MVP award here. J.J. Watt put some pressure on the quarterback with a three-sack performance on Sunday, but Rodgers reminded us why he's the best quarterback alive and the most valuable player on any team. Give him the hardware.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 17 game and debates the MVP race between Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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