In the Packers 41-17 win over the Vikings last week, the Defense created 4 turnovers, in addition to a game-altering goal line stand early in the contest. The week before in Miami, the defense forced a fumble and intercepted Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa 3 times, all in the 2nd half, to lock up a Christmas Day win. The week prior, they held Baker Mayfield and the Los Angeles Rams to 12 points.
All 3 of the aforementioned games occurred after the Packers late-season bye and the result of their efforts has led to Tomorrow’s Win or Go Home game against the Lions. The truth is, the Packers are in the position they’re in largely due to their defense (and Keison Nixon). In last week’s thumping, Aaron Rodgers threw for 164 yards. These Packers are not your 2010 Packers. While both teams caught fire at the perfect time of the year, Aaron Rodgers threw for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns in that memorable Week 16 game against the Giants 12 years ago, when the Packers won 45-17. These Packers are doing things differently and have finally found a winning identity to believe in.
The Detroit Lions (8-8) average 27.1 points per game, which ranks 5th best in Football. Their two headed rushing attack (Swift, Williams) combined with their playmaking wide receivers (St. Brown, Chark, Reynolds, Raymond, Williams) has led to their explosive offense. The Lions are 7-2 in their last 9 games and QB Jared Goff has played great football in that stretch. Detroit’s offensive line is one of the best in the league. Their Tight Ends get dirty in the run game and seemingly catch touchdowns every week. The Lions are a strong offensive football team.
On the brighter side, the Home/Road splits for the Lions offense are pretty staggering and Goff has never been a cold weather quarterback. In Home games, the Lions have averaged 33.1 points per game, which is #1 in the NFL. In road games, that number falls all the way down to 19.3 points per game. The Lions love playing in the Ford Field Dome and will not have that advantage on Sunday Night. Green Bay’s forecasted at 26 Degrees for kick-off.
The first time these two teams played each other, both teams were desperate to end their respective miserable mid-season stretches. The Packers were losers of 4 straight games and the Lions were losers of 5 straight. WR’s Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs played a combined 18 snaps in the Week 9 matchup (both departed due to injury). Meanwhile, Sammy Watkins (off the team), Amari Rodgers (off the team) and Samori Toure played 107 combined snaps. Since that game nearly two months ago, the personnel, execution and confidence levels for both teams has changed A LOT.
On Sunday Night, the Packers will be able to take advantage of the Lions defensive problems, unlike in Week 9. Detroit like to play a lot of man coverage and did that a ton in their first matchup against the Packers backup receivers (sans Lazard). Tomorrow, the Green Bay offense will have their full arsenal of playmakers (Lazard, Watson, Doubs, Cobb) in addition to a healthy and improved offensive line. I don’t think we’ll be witnessing any goal line passes to David Bakhtiari again.
In addition to the Packers advantage against the Lions secondary, Detroit isn’t a very good tackling team yet the Packers got stymied by their front 7 in Week 9. Green Bay’s offense won’t run for 320 yards like the Carolina Panthers did against Detroit two weeks ago but I also don’t forecast the Packers RB’s going for 59 yards on 20 carries as they did in their first matchup. The Green Bay offense, while still not a juggernaut, has made significant strides over the last two months and will be able to put up points in this game.
Which leads us to the defense. If I told you the Packers were going to score 27 points on Sunday Night, how confident would you be that the Packers would pull off a win? For all the ups and downs through the season, the game is going to be won or lost by the Packers defense. The Lions average about 130 rushing yards per game, 11th best in the league. The Packers run defense, who has struggled for the majority of the season, will need to step up. If the Vikings game is an indicator of what’s to come in that facet, I feel good about Green Bay’s chances.
In the secondary, for as good as Detroit’s skill players are, Green Bay might just be better right now. The Packers defense has 6 interceptions in their last 2 games and just held Justin Jefferson to 1 catch for 15 yards in their last de-facto playoff game. All of the arrows are pointing up for the Packers defense but in the end, they’ll need to continue to build on their momentum to pick up the win on Sunday Night and carry them into the postseason.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. 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.