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Packers clinch NFC North as Rodgers dominates Lions

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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The Pack is back atop the North. Aaron Rodgers put on a show as Green Bay (10-6) clinched a playoff home game with a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions (9-7) in Week 17. Here's what we learned:

1. Relax, cheeseheads: Your Green Bay Packers are NFC North champions. Green Bay's season-saving six-game winning streak has taken them all the way back to the playoffs and the top of the division. The Packers will host the New York Giants next Sunday afternoon (4:40 p.m. ET) at Lambeau Field.

Meanwhile, the Lions failed to clinch their first division title since 1993 and will have to settle for the sixth seed. Trading a playoff game at Ford Field for a short-week, prime time matchup (8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday) with the Seattle Seahawks and their 12th man doesn't seem like a square deal, but that's what happens when you lose three straight to end the season.

2. Has Aaron Rodgers ever been hotter? The Packers quarterback made good on his promise to "run the table" and did so with flying colors. In Green Bay's final seven games, Rodgers produced an insane 18:0 TD-to-INT ratio; that closing salvo was the first seven-week period during which he didn't throw an interception. His four TD strikes on Sunday night made him the season leader in TD passes (40). Rodgers' performance late in the year may have been too late to swing him the MVP, given his company (Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott), but it shouldn't be ignored as just another flash run.

In Green Bay's division clincher, Rodgers was equal parts mobile, accurate and smart but will face his toughest test of the season next week. New York's secondary, boasting Landon Collins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, is among the stingiest in the league and far improved from its earlier meeting with Green Bay in Week 4. What happens when an unstoppable future Hall of Famer meets an impenetrable web of ball hawks?

3. Sunday night's loss will likely go down as one of the more disappointing moments in Ford Field history, but the Lions weren't wholly to blame for the defeat. They simply ran into a buzzsaw in Rodgers' clock-killing offense. Detroit's shortcomings were recurring ones. Without Theo Riddick (injured reserve) and Dwayne Washington, the Lions failed to truly develop a running game behind Zach Zenner, who saw a career-high 20 carries for 69 yards. Detroit's league-worst running game will have an impossible matchup ahead in Seattle. Detroit also failed to convert when it needed to in the second half. The Lions started off with two punts and then then kicked a long field goal, while Green Bay was finding the end zone. Detroit loves to play from behind -- they entered the fourth quarter down three -- but that shtick won't fly in the postseason.

4. The Packers have had to battle through injuries in the secondary all season, and that won't change this week. Three defensive backs left Green Bay's win early, most notably Quinten Rollins, who was taken to the hospital with a neck injury. Damarious Randall, who was questionable to play with a shoulder injury coming into Sunday, suffered a knee injury midway through the game. Their availability will be something to watch ahead of the Packers' clash with Odell Beckham.

5. Rodgers wasn't the only Aaron to have himself a night. Bulky fullback Aaron Ripkowski made a name for himself in the first half when he saw six carries for 45 yards and recorded his first touchdown catch. Ripkowski was the go-to back early on, while Ty Montgomery got most of the second-half carries. Whether Rip's evening was a product of a game plan or a sign of things to come for Green Bay remains unseen. What we do know, and will never forget (until tomorrow), is that for at least an hour, humans named Ripkowski and Zenner dominated the football airwaves.

6. Call Ford Field a Hail Mary haven! Matthew Stafford nearly drew the Lions back into the game with a late 38-yard Hail Mary score to Anquan Boldin. The touchdown was ultimately inconsequential, but was notable for the deja vu. (Rodgers, of course, beat the Lions with a game-winning prayer last year in the very same building.) Stafford's launch, while impressive, didn't quite elicit the same elation.

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