It’s been a rough two weeks for the Packers and their fans. Coach McCarthy’s been talking about asses a lot lately. He got his kicked in Denver and apparently he, his staff and his players have red ones after the game in Carolina, whatever that means. The Packers have gone from rattling off six consecutive victories followed by a much needed bye week to losing two games in a row to the best two teams they faced all season.
The Packers have struggled on the road of late. Fans will remember that the 2010 Super Bowl championship team had to win three consecutive road playoff games against good teams. It’s hard to imagine the Packers of the last three seasons are even capable of that.
The good news is that Sunday’s game is at Lambeau Field. The better news is that the game is against a division opponent. Green Bay has been dominant at home, they’ve been equally as good against divisional opponents. Throwing out 2013 because of Aaron Rodgers’ injury, the Packers were 5-1 in 2010, 6-0 in 2011, 5-1 in 2012, 5-1 in 2014 and are 1-0 this season. That’s 22-3 against division opponents over that stretch. Winning percentages against any group of NFL opponents that high are unheard of.
The 2015 Packers are in desperate need of “getting right”. The Packers are a week-to-week momentum program, and they always have been under McCarthy. They go on runs. Last year they rode a four game run from September into October and a seven of eight run to close the season to finish at 12-4. They’ve already put together a six game run this season.
Why the Packers Will Win: they need it. They’re better than the Lions, they’re at home and they can’t afford to lose this game. The Lions are not competitive this season, and they appear to have quit on coach Jim Caldwell. This Lions group has proved to be weaker without Ndamukoung Suh and Nick Fairley. Matthew Stafford appears to be a broken player. Stafford is a very gifted quarterback, and NFC North observers have been waiting for his breakout year. The problem is Stafford is now in year seven, and if it hasn’t happened yet it’s not likely to.
As poorly as people think Aaron Rodgers and the offense are playing, Rodgers is still on pace for 39 touchdown passes against just six interceptions despite missing his primary target (Jordy Nelson) all season long. They can still score and it’s possible that the flurry of offense against a very good Panthers defense in the second half of Sunday’s game might be the kick in the ass (I said ass again) they needed to get going. The familiarity with the Lions defense and personnel won’t hurt, and neither will the season-long loss of DeAndre Levy.
It’s time for the defense to “get right” as well. The Packers had the #1 scoring defense in the league after their bye week, but they’ve been embarrassed by Peyton Manning in consecutive weeks. Both Manning and Newton are big name players but neither were having a very effective year throwing the ball coming into the game against Green Bay. Getting Sam Shields and Quentin Rollins back should help. The Packers would be well served to use Jake Ryan instead of Nate Palmer as he played well in the second half of the Panthers game.
Why the Lions will win: They won’t.
Bottom line: Green Bay is the better team. The Lions don’t win in Lambeau Field and they’ve tried with much better teams than they have this season. According to FootballOutsiders.com the Lions are 29th in offensive DVOA and 31st on defense. They’re just a flawed team.
I’m no longer convinced that the Packers are the best team in the league. The reason is very simple. I don’t think the defense is as good as I did after the first six weeks of the regular season. This defense looked good enough to carry a Jordy Nelson-less Packers offense. It doesn’t any more. That doesn’t mean that a unit as young as this one can’t improve and be good enough at the end of the season. That journey starts on Sunday. Packers 30 Lions 17