Why the Packers should be on upset alert against Lions

Laugh if you want yet the statement is true.

Almost one year ago, in December of 2019, the then 12-3 Packers went into Ford Field playing a 3-11-1 Lions team who had lost 8 games in a row and was playing with their 3rd string quarterback. A Packers win would give them the #2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs and what happened? A healthy Packers team overcame a 17-3 halftime deficit and scraped by with a win on a last-second Mason Crosby field goal. The Packers were 13.5 point favorites going into that game.

Perhaps contrary to popular belief, things have never been as “easy” for the Packers in Detroit in the Aaron Rodgers era as some may think. Sure, they’ve had their great moments, like when Aaron Rodgers threw for 328 yards and 3 touchdowns in his 2nd career start in 2008. Or in 2016, when the NFC North was on the line between the two teams and “Scorched Earth” Rodgers torched the Lions for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 31-24 win.

Overall, I’ll admit that the body of work is impressive in the Rodgers Era. In games Aaron Rodgers has started, the Packers have a record of 7-3 against the Lions in Detroit. With that said, the Packers are a 2015 Hail Mary and last year’s “crap-show” away from being 5-5 in those contests. Detroit always plays the Packers tough, especially in Ford Field.

2020 is a new season and the two teams are yet again headed in different directions. The Packers are 9-3 and Lombardi Trophy hopeful while the Lions are 5-7 with a recently fired head coach. Nonetheless, if last year taught us anything, it’s that no single game is guaranteed in the NFL, especially if it’s Packers at Lions. Here’s why the Packers need to be on upset alert going into Sunday.

Matthew Stafford:

Stafford hasn’t played the Packers in Detroit since 2018, so you know he’s looking forward to this matchup. In that last meeting, Stafford threw for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 31-23 Lions victory. The Lions also beat the Packers in 2017 with Stafford at the helm, which gives them a 2-0 record in their last 2 home games against the Pack with Stafford at QB.

It’s not a ground breaking revelation for me to tell you that Stafford is a pretty good quarterback. Just look as recently as last week in the Lions comeback win against the Bears, where Stafford tossed 3 touchdowns and 402 yards passing. Stafford will be without his top receiving weapon in Kenny Golladay on Sunday, which will benefit the Packers Pass Defense, which ranks an impressive 11th in the NFL with 224 yards allowed per game. With that said, Stafford is a 12 year veteran and can carve up almost any defense if they’re not ready to play.

D’Andre Swift:

The Lions rookie tailback has developed nicely as the season has progressed but he is currently battling an injury that has withheld him from the last 3 games. Swift has practiced 3 days in a row and is trending towards playing in Sunday’s game. Swift has established himself as the clear #1 running back for Detroit when healthy as he is a viable threat on the ground and in the pass game as a receiver.

If Swift can go on Sunday, the Packers will need to make sure that he doesn’t completely shift the dynamic of the game. They allowed it to happen with Dalvin Cook last month (163 yards rushing, 63 yards receiving, 4 touchdowns) in a 28-22 loss and James Robinson of Jacksonville (109 yards rushing) in a narrow 24-20 win. Swift is talented enough to have a similar effect, so the Packers run defense will need to be able to contain him enough if he’s playing this Sunday. The Packers rank 14th in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game.

Jamal Agnew:

The Lions kick/punt return-specialist has 4 touchdowns in his career on such plays and the Packers have allowed 2 punt returns for a touchdown in their last 4 games. If this game has a shot in resulting in a Lions win, there’s a likely chance that Jamal Agnew has a big return or two. The Packers Special Teams needs to figure it out and it starts this Sunday against the talented Lions returner.

Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell:

Ah yes, the ole’ Interim Head Coach, “New Energy” vibe with a team. We saw it last week with the Lions and their miraculous come-back win against the Bears. That was Bevell’s first game as head coach and the Lions scored 34 points, which they only accomplished once in the 2 and a half seasons with Matt Patricia. We saw it earlier in the season with the Texans when they fired Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start and won their next game and are 4-4 since the firing.

Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t but the Lions don’t have the dark cloud of Matt Patricia over them anymore. I’m sure many Lions players and fans are relieved to have him out of the organization and get a breath of fresh air. It’s always something to monitor.

Like I said earlier, these are two football teams heading in different directions. The Packers are 9-3 and have their sights on a Super Bowl while the Lions are clawing for a potential wild-card spot, even if it takes a miracle. The Packers are the much better team and should be able to light up the scoreboard against a terrible Lions defense. However, if history tells us anything, the Packers need to be ready to play on Sunday against their division rival, or they could find themselves in a troublesome spot.

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Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a diehard Packers fan. Alex\\\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.

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