Early Bird Breakdown Week 10: Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown. Before we can talk about this weeks game, we will take a look back at last week’s.
The Packers last week showed the same weaknesses as they did in Denver: they could not hold up the pocket, they had multiple holes on defense, and the receivers could not get open. Carolina was able to make multiple big plays to extend drives and get points. The Panthers also were able to get consistent pressure to Rodgers, generating five sacks. Finally, for most of the game, the receivers could not separate themselves from the coverage. However, the fourth quarter things changed when Rodgers was able to mount a comeback. The Packers scored 15 points to get back within 8, but ultimately fell short 29-37. While fans can be happy with what they saw in the end, recent trends have shown the Packers to have multiple deficiencies that will need to be corrected if they want to go far in January.
Packers’ Offense vs Lions’ Defense:
The Packers get two much needed reprieves this weekend: they get to play at home and they get to play against an awful team. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have won each home game this season by at least a touchdown this season. Rodgers, with the lack of crowd noise, is able to utilize the hard count to draw defenses offside and get free plays. Not to mention some pent up rage built up over the futility from the last few games, a motivated Packers offense should be on display.
Standing in their way is an inept defense, ranking 23rd in total yards and dead last in scoring defense, giving up over 30 points per game. They are also without Rashean Mathis, their best corner who is out with a concussion. While Ty Montgomery is unlikely to play, the Packers still will have more than enough weapons to make quick work of Detroit’s secondary. The Packers receivers should finally be able to shake loose and get open. Despite loosing defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly via free agency, Detroit’s one shining spot on defense is that it has 20 sacks on the season, good for 12th best overall. However, this still should be a much easier assignment for the Packers’ now regressing offensive line, so they should bounce back as well.
The running game will look to James Starks this week after being named the starter. Eddie Lacy is questionable for the game and has had issues being the pounding back of his first two seasons so far. While rumors are swirling about his playing weight, this appears to be more of an issue with being injured hampering his ability to run, probably from coming back too soon from his week two injury. Regardless, Starks has proven to be the better option so far on the season and Green Bay will look to utilize him to the fullest against a weaker Lions’ defense.
Packers’ Defense vs Lions’ Offense:
The Packers’ defense has been on a downward slope recently as well, but looks to be able to have an upswing against a poor Detroit offense. Matthew Stafford has the third-most interceptions in the league with 11. They also have far-and-away the worst rushing offense in the league, gaining only 69 yards per game on the ground, where the next worst team is nearly gaining 13 more yards more than they are. The offensive line is a big reason for both struggles, as they have allowed 22 sacks on the season and cannot clear room for the running backs to move.
Expect to hear Clay Matthews name a few times this game, as the running backs for the Lions are not quick enough to escape him, and the protection will not be good enough to keep him away from Stafford. Likely, Green Bay will get at least three sacks in this game. While Detroit does have two talented wide receivers in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Green Bay is likely to see the return of Sam Shields, who is most likely going to be assigned to Calvin Johnson this weekend. This should help shore up a secondary that has been leaky going all the way back to the San Diego game when Phillip Rivers threw for over 500 yards.
Clear, sunny, and a temperature in the low 50s should be a comfortable day in Green Bay, at least by November standards.
There are numerous signs that point to the Packers’ coming away pretty easily with this one. The Lions have not won in Green Bay since 1991. Aaron Rodgers has not lost 3 consecutive games since 2008. The Lions are 1-7, the Packers 6-2. The Packers are at home, where they have not lost at all in the last 13 games (counting playoffs). The Lions have not won on the road this season, and each road game they have lost by an average of over 13 points per game.
Despite the recent struggles on both sides of the ball, the Packers have no business losing a game like this to a team like this. Green Bay is now in must-win territory, as the Vikings are in 1st place in the division (they are tied record wise, but with a 3-0 division record vs Green Bay’s 1-0 division record, the Vikings have the tiebreaker currently). The Packers need to win to turn around momentum as they have regressed in multiple facets. No one is better suited to being the punching bag than the Lions, who boast the worst record in the NFL. Expect Clay Matthews and the Packers defense to have a much, much better game than they have in the better part of a month. Expect Rodgers to look like, well Rodgers again; he’ll use the hard count to draw off the defense and put up a ton of points early and often. The wide receivers should easily get open, as Pro Football Focus graded the Lions as the 29th ranked coverage unit. Starks most likely will have 1-2 big runs, as the Lions are not the greatest tackling defense.
The Los Vegas odds makers have marked this game as the biggest spread, giving Green Bay a -12. For those non-bettors, that means that if you bet on the Packers to win, they would still win if the spread, in this case -12, was added to their total. If the Packers won 30-21, you would lose the bet if you bet on the Packers. This is a fairly big deal, as spreads are a good indicator as to what people think is a fair margin for victory as it insures they get bettors on both sides. If Detroit manages to make this a game, despite all their issues, then the Packers will have real struggles ahead when they play actual good teams again. Green Bay will need to use this game to work out issues and make a statement that they will not lose again like they have the previous weeks. I expect Green Bay to follow through, winning this one 45-24.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University