It’s time for another big division game! Yes, it’s “just” the Lions, but rivalry games are different, as I illustrate below.
Injuries change things, too. With everything going on, here are the three points I’ll be paying the most attention to in the game.
Stopping the Run
The Packers entered the season with a bad run defense. Training camp darling Kamal Martin looked like he was going to help, but got hurt before the opening. Then in the first game of the year, Kenny Clark, their best run defender, got hurt. Luckily, we put the Vikings in a hole where they weren’t able (or smart enough) to run more. Dalvin Cook still had over 4 yards per carry and a couple TDs, though.
The bright spot was free agent signing Christian Kirksey and undrafted free agent Krys Barnes stepping up to flash some run stopping ability.
Now the Lions come to town. I originally thought rookie De’Andre Swift (who I had as RB1 in this year’s draft) would be the biggest threat, but he only had 3 carries for 8 yards in his debut – his biggest impact was dropping a gimmie that would have won the game with seconds left.
Instead, the Lions turned to the ageless child-beating wonder, Adrian Peterson, who had 14 carries for 93 yards. He usually goes off against the Packers, even when they aren’t running a MASH unit.
It could spell trouble.
Looks like Billy Winn, the new signing with experience in Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis, is going to be cast as the savior on the line (because it doesn’t look like Dean Lowry or Ty Lancaster will be it). As a well-traveled veteran, the Packers are looking for someone to step in and contribute. As a low-end roster option, he won’t be expected to fill Kenny Clark’s shoes, but will just need to be not terrible. I think Daylon Mack had more upside, but his inexperience (and potentially his own injury issues) made Winn a safer bet for this week.
If he can hold the point and the fill a lane, the Packers might have a chance to let their linebacker make some plays.
The other possibility is that Mike Pettine shocks the sh!t out of all of us and moves guys around to stop the run. Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary both have the tools to play on the line. Preston Smith sets a nice edge, so the pieces are available
The best option would be to get a lead and make the Lions one-dimensional because Matt Stafford has about the same chance as Kirk Cousin to win a shootout against a rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers.
Another Rookie Corner
It’s hard for rookies at any position to make the jump to the pro game. It’s even harder for a cornerback to make a debut with no offseason. When a cornerback has to make the jump to the pros with no OTAs or preseason games and face the Aaron Rodgers Reminder Of How Great I Am Tour in his first pro action, well… just ask Cameron Dantzler how that feels (hint: not good).
Jeff Okudah was a top prospect in the draft and looks to have a great future, but after missing week 1, I don’t envy him stepping in against this passing attack, which has very little film to study of the year 2 install, as his first pro action.
Even without the guy who projects to be CB1, the Lions played man coverage in 82% of their defensive snaps last game… more man coverage than any other team in the league last year… you know what Aaron Rodgers does to man coverage?
This is also a defense that let Mitch Trubisky (yes, that Mitch Trubisky) throw three touchdowns in the 4th quarter. If, like last year, the Lions manage to have a lead going into the 4th, I’ll have all the faith in the world that Aaron Rodgers can pull it out in the end.
Yes, the Lions are a garbage franchise and a division punching bag coming off a 3-win season.
But, as I’m fond of saying, division games are different.
Last year, the 14-win Packers led the 3-win Lions for a grand total of 0 seconds over two games (spare me your penalty whining, Lions fans), and in the four games prior to that, the Packers were 0-4 against the Lions (and never lead for 3 of them – in the other, they had a 3-0 lead for 1:57 before giving up 27 straight points en route to getting spanked 35-11).
Let’s not take a division game too lightly.