After the disaster of Thanksgiving, the Packers play for the second consecutive Thursday as they travel to the Motor City to take on the Lions. Detroit is on a 3 game winning streak and has shown that there is some serious talent on Jim Caldwell’s team.
December is the month where the contenders are separated from the pretenders, and now is the time for the Packers to get hot and get into the playoffs on a winning streak. The time is now.
Three weeks after shocking the Packers, the Lions are a serious problem and the Pack is approaching “must win” territory. A game behind Minnesota, division games are of utmost importance, and the Packers can’t afford to lose a third game inside the North. With Thursday fast approaching, that leads to this week’s edition of 3…2…1…
For those of you who are new, please feel free to go into my archives to read past countdowns, and keep up with reading this series as the season goes on. For those who are consistent readers, feel free to skip down to the next subheading. But 3…2…1… is a series in which I will countdown ways for the Packers to win their game each week. I will highlight 3 key matchups, make 2 bold predictions, and then focus on 1 key stat. So let’s dive into it.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Calvin Johnson vs Sam Shields
- In years past, Calvin Johnson has been a nightmare for Packers corners, but Sam Shields has been the only Packer who has been able to contain him. For the Packers to have any chance against the now explosive Lions offense, they need to stop Johnson from creating separation down the field. Shields hasn’t made many mistakes this year, and that needs to continue as he has been quietly very good in 2015.
- David Bakhtiari vs Ziggy Ansah
- Fans are starting to get on the Packers left tackle for his play in recent weeks. His name has been called a fair amount because of penalties or missed assignments. But when he is on, he is an exceptional pass blocker with great footwork. Ansah, on the Detroit side, is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL and extremely capable of sidetracking an offense by himself. Bakhtiari needs to be a top tier left tackle Thursday night.
- Randall Cobb vs Darius Slay
- Much like the Johnson v Shields matchup, Randall Cobb is a matchup nightmare when he is on, and he has no choice this week but to be exactly that. He is the catalyst of the passing game, opening up everything from the intermediate routes to the deep ball. With no good reason to trust Davante Adams, James Jones, or Jeff Janis yet, the Lions will be keyed on stopping Cobb. And that means that Darius Slay will have the coverage assignment. Slay has been sound in his coverage and hasn’t allowed many completions recently. But he has been inconsistent, and that could open up some opportunities for the offense to get on track.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Aaron Rodgers throws for at least 3 touchdowns
- Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been Aaron Rodgers in a month, and that can’t continue. Luckily, he has a good matchup against a Detroit defense that is solid but not exceptional in any way with the exception of Ziggy Ansah. If Aaron gets back on track as I expect, and gains some confidence and trust back in the first quarter, he will have a monster game. He plays his best with his back against the wall, so look for a big game from the reigning MVP.
- The offense accumulates over 450 total yards
- This ties into Rodgers performance, but the running game has looked stout the last two or three weeks and that can lead to some balance that will help the offense return to form. If Rodgers throws for 300+ like I expect, and Eddie Lacy continues his resurgence, 450 yards is a breeze.
1 KEY STAT
- Starting Field Position
- The Packers need to give themselves shorter fields, something that has been a struggle, whether it was by poor returns or penalties, but that will have to change. Detroit isn’t great at flipping the field, so if the Packers can average their drives to start at around the 35, that will be a major key to victory.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.