Early Bird Breakdown Week 13: Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Hello and welcome to a special Thursday edition of the Early Bird Breakdown! Last Thursday’s recap will be part of a larger piece coming Sunday regarding the overall issues plaguing the Packers offense. I’m sure every Packer fan remembers the game and wants to forget the loss last week so we will move right into the breakdown.
Packers’ Offense vs Lions’ Defense:
The last time these two teams played, Green Bay was flat out embarrassed at home by a team with only one win. Since then Detroit has not lost and the Packers were the only team to score over 14 points, beating Oakland 18-13 and the Eagles 45-14. Detroit’s defense has been on an uptick recently and will have plenty of confidence going into this game. In fact, that stretch moved Detroit from near the bottom in total defense to 18th overall on the season.
The Packers’ offensive struggles have been well noticed and the reasoning for those struggles will be written about extensively this Sunday, but the short version is that Rodgers has no one he feels confidant to throw to. Andrew Quarless & Ty Montgomery both appear out for this game again, which means no new help is coming. Instead, the Packers best chance will be to make Eddie Lacy a focal point and get him and James Starks involved early and often, both with the run and the pass. Green Bay has not had good offensive production in weeks, including against the Vikings. Rodgers only managed 212 passing yards that game and has only thrown for 300 or more yards three times this season.
The Packers offensive line is all banged up as well, which will make blocking the red-hot defensive end Ezekiel Ansah problematic. Ansah has 6.5 sacks in the last five games, though Green Bay held him sackless in their last encounter. If Green Bay can draw some penalties and extend drives, they should be able to move the ball well enough to be in position to win. At this point though, after the way they played against Chicago, those are big IFs.
Packers’ Defense vs Lions’ Offense:
Green Bay’s defense has been a bright spot recently, they have moved up to 6th in points though they tend to still give up a lot of yards on the ground (112.8 per game, 23rd overall). Fortunately for Green Bay, Detroit failed to exploit this weakness last time and nothing the last two weeks has shown they have improved in running the ball.
While Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is incredibly explosive (if you watched the Thanksgiving game, you would have seen what he can do) but has lost a step due to age. Green Bay has a talented enough secondary to contend with Detroit’s receivers, and they can generate pressure against a bad offensive line leading to either sacks or potential takeaways. The Packers defense will not only have to set the tone, they more than likely need to outright win the game for the Packers.
Yardage wise, Detroit is only gaining .9 yards per game more than the Packers offense this season, both ranking low overall on being able to move the ball offensively. The Lions are getting nearly 4 points less-per-game though, with the Packers being the much more efficient red zone team. Green Bay has hanged it’s hat on being a bend-but-don’t-break defense this season, which will be critical in keeping a team that usually does not score many points out of the red zone.
It’s a dome, so perfect playing conditions.
It is really hard to find confidence in a Packers team that lost at home in the first meeting with the Lions and travels to a hostile environment for the rematch. Especially considering that the Lions just dismantled and destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving 45-14. Harder still, after seeing the Bears lock down the Packers and win at home. Having said all that, the Packers do have the better defense and have played just as well offensively overall this season as the Lions. They can and have won a must win divisional road game just two weeks ago against a much better Vikings team. This game I imagine will go one of two ways: the Packers play a full, tight, back-and-forth game with the Lions, or the implosion happens after all the wearing down on offense. The Packers very well could make one offensive mistake and after weeks of pressure finally reach a boiling point that everything bad comes out and they get bounced like the Eagles did last week. Or, the defense could generate an early turnover into good field position, Rodgers scores a quick touchdown to Jones or Cobb, and suddenly everything looks back on track. The crazy thing is, both scenarios are entirely possible. For the Packers sake, they need to move the ball early or the Lions may pounce. I think the Packers play slightly better than they have recently with a result similar to that of the Vikings game; the Packers draw a couple of flags, score some early field goals, and let the Lions make the mistake to bury them. I expect both teams to trot out their kickers, with the final score Green Bay over Detroit 16-13.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University