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Packers vs. Lions: How It Breaks Down

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Packers vs. Lions: How It Breaks Down

When The Packers Have The Ball:

Much has been made, and rightly so, about the bludgeoning of the Packers' offensive line in Detroit the last time these two teams met. It wasn't pretty.

The Packers know this better than anyone and will no doubt be prepared to counter some of the physicality of the Lions front with an extra body or two in the backfield.

Look for McCarthy to motion or set tight ends Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree in the offensive backfield, especially early on in the game, when the crowd is in full throat and the Lions defensive line is able to get off on the snap of the ball almost simultaneously due the Packers needing to go on a silent count. The extra bulk in the backfield is an effective way that push up the middle can be negated. This will also give Josh Sitton, who has struggled some this year with a knee injury, some help in trying to contain defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Then, it's up to guys like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finely to get open against an improved but still suspect Lions secondary.

Finley in particular presents a matchup nightmare for the Lions who simply don't have a single defensive player who can run with Finley in coverage. Last week, when  the Packers split Finley out wide, the Buccaneers put their best cover corner, Aquib Talib, out on him several times. The Lions don't have anyone of that caliber in their secondary. And the Lions' linebackers, while much improved over the dreck they trotted out at the position last year, don't have anyone who can counter Finley's athleticism. Look for a big game from number 88.

Another way McCarthy will try and slow down the Lions' pass rush is by moving the pocket and getting Aaron Rodgers on the move. This will make it much tougher for the Lions front four to just tee off on the passer and force them to find the quarterback rather than just pin their ears back and fly up field.

As the game goes on, look for McCarthy to go more and more to his four and five wide receiver sets. Ryan Grant, who will see his role increased with the injury to James Starks, will most likely be given a token number of carries to keep the offense on schedule and to set up boot-action for Rodgers, but for the most part, the running game won't feature heavily.

This game will come down to moving Rodgers around early, letting the receivers get open and grabbing an early lead.

When The Lions Have The Ball:

Matt Stafford is coming off a game where he put the Lions way behind with his interceptions - and then brought them all the way back in dramatic fashion with a torrent of touchdown passes in the second half , all against a pretty bad Panthers team.

Any gameplan against the Lions, however, begins with wide receiver Calvin Johnson - no matter who the quarterback is. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has matched up cornerback Charles Woodson with Johnson quite a bit over the course of the last two years, mostly because Woodson is able to get physical with the receiver on the line of scrimmage and because of his quick ability at pattern recognition.

However, this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tramon Williams matched up on Megatron with safety help over the top as much as possible, leaving Woodson and Sam Shields to deal with the likes of Nate Burelson and rookie Titus Young. Young, in particular, is a real talent and is growing into his role on the Lions offense.

Of course, matching up guys in man coverage isn't exactly how Capers (or any NFL defensive coordinator) operates. He'll throw a lot of different looks at Stafford and Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. One of the things Capers needs to guard against is the late crossing routes that the team saw a lot from the Buccaneers last week. Indeed, last year in Lambeau, Linehan took advantage of Capers' zone-blitzes last year with late crossers and tight end screens that left guys wide open in various voids in  the coverage that let Lions receivers catch the ball well under the sticks but with plenty of free space to run through due to Johnson running coverage off deep. One way to combat this would be to try some feints with Desmond Bishop where he takes a step or two toward the A gap, making the offensive line and Stafford think he's coming on a blitz, and then drops into a zone where Linehan likes to run his shallow crossing routes.

Overall, the defense just needs to be assignment sure. The Packers had numerous fundamental breakdowns last week that, if corrected, would have made for a much more comfortable win over the Bucs. I would look for Capers to ease off on the 60-70 percent clip he's been calling pressure and for him to try and let outside backers Clay Matthews and Erik Walden win off the edge against Lions tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus, who are both extremely shaky in pass protection. I also expect to see an increased number of snaps from defensive tackle Mike Neal, as Capers will most likely use his 2-4-5 nickel extensively against Linehan's liberal use of the shotgun formation.

Enough Already, Who Wins?

Long time readers of this site, my followers on Twitter, my family and friends, hell, even the folks I work with - all know this is the one game I have been worried about since the NFL released its 2011 schedule back in April. But the closer we get to the game, the more confident I get that McCarthy and his excellent coaching staff will be the difference due to the adjustments they will make off of the several issues they faced against this team in 2010.

Packers: 42

Lions: 24

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (47) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

tony's picture

I feel the same way... I'm nervous as all hell about it, but the more I think about it, the more I trust the veteran players and coaches to play a sharp game. After all, the Packers are the 10-0 team, not the Lions.

CSS's picture

I've watched 3 full games and several partial games of the Lions this year and their defensive line is susceptible to trap plays.

I've seen Suh get blown off the ball by Left Guards that can pull and trap. Is this part of T.J. Lang's game?

I honestly have no idea. Can he effectively pull?

packeraaron's picture

Someone pointed to trap plays on Twitter this morning. As I said to him, it's just something the Packers rarely, if ever, employ.

Now, that said, one of the things I think you need to do in a game like this is give your divisional opponent, who knows your every wrinkle, one or two unscouted looks. Maybe a trap play or two is in the cards

And yes, I think Lang would be more than suited for it.

GmanB1984's picture

Everything you said was right on. I would add that the Packers have played in many, many big games and have had a good deal of success. The Lions on the other hand have not played in any meaningful primetime games in a long time. I think that the moment will get to Stafford, Schwartz and the rest of the Lions, whereas the Packers will be calm, cool and collected.

Kendra's picture

A long time? They just played in DET vs. CHI on MNF.

It's true that the meaning of the games increases the closer it gets to playoff time but that MNF game was a statement game for the Lions and they pulled it off.

I don't necessarily think they'll be overwhelmed in a game they play every year against a team they beat the last time they played. I'd love for it to happen but if I were the Packers, it's not something I'd count on.

Evan's picture

Wait, what? The Lions pulled it off? They got their asses handed to them by the Bears.

packeraaron's picture

Kendra is talking about the MNF game - which they won.

Evan's picture

Oh, got it.

"Just played" made me think of the most recent game.

GmanB1984's picture

I don't remember that MNF game being hyped like the way this game has been. Maybe it was in Detroit....I don't know. This game has been talked about for weeks on ESPN and all the sports shows. Everyone is picking the Lions to come out and beat the undefeated Packers.
It usually takes up and coming teams several tries before they beat their top rival.
90's Packers Vs Cowboys. 90's 49ers Vs. Cowboys. 00's Colts Vs Pats

Paul dier's picture

Just as Charles Woodson was mad at himself following the Chargers game, Rogers was mad at himself for his "sub-par"
performance against the Bucs. I am going to predict a monster game from Rogers. Playing on the road doesn't bother him. See the Atlanta playoff game last year.

CincyPackFan's picture

i hope for lots of no-huddle early to keep the lions from rotating their d-linemen. they start sucking wind early, and we don't let off the gas.

Satori's picture

Good stuff and it should be a hotly contested game for the first half, then the World Champions will assert themselves in the 3rd quarter. I also expect some new wrinkles from MM on offense and Capers on defense - they've been working on this one for weeks now in preparation for the short week

The Packers will have fewer mistakes, turnovers & penalties and that may be the difference on Thursday between a Championship team and one that is still finding their way

one tiny correction above:

"..brought them all the way back in dramatic fashion with a torrid of touchdown passes"

I think you mean torrent, not torrid

Go Packers

packeraaron's picture

Doh! Thanks. The perils of writing while at the day job...

IowaPackFan's picture

That was pretty spot on, Satori. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Ryeguy812's picture

I'm seeing a game that features tight ends. I agree that Finley will be big, he absolutely abused the Lions at Lambeau last season. But Detroit has two fine pass catching tight ends in Scheffler and Pettigrew. With the way Kellen Winslow produced last week, I wouldn't be surprised to see Detroit try to make GB cover two big targets down the seam and in the flats.

CSS's picture

Stafford will get his yards, but I hope he's shooting at vertical targets moving down the field. Stafford is inconsistent series-to-series, let alone game-to-game. When he throws to vertical targets that are moving he's going to give the Packer defensive backfield opportunities. They will get 3-5 chances at forced or errant throws the more Stafford decides to challenge those vertical routes.

cow42's picture

HOPE YOU'RE RIGHT THAT THE PACK WILL SCORE 42 BECAUSE THERE'S ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHANCE THAT THIS CRAP-ASS DEFENSE WILL KEEP THE LIONS UNDER 35.

-- I would look for Capers to ease off on the 60-70 percent clip he's been calling pressure and for him to try and let outside backers Clay Matthews and Erik Walden win off the edge against Lions tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus--

GOOD LUCK WITH THIS. IF THEY GO WITH THIS STRATEGY STAFFORD WILL HAVE AAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL DAAAAAAAAAAY.

packeraaron's picture

Why are you shouting?

Evan's picture

What happened to your mea culpa?

cow42's picture

ONE HALF OF WATCHING A HORSESH/T TAMPA OFFENSE RUN AND PASS AT WILL MADE ME REALIZE THAT I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG. BUCKLE UP FOR A SHOOT-OUT EVERY WEEK, CUZ THIS D ISN'T STOPPIN' ANYONE.

Tommyboy's picture

Or for that matter, why are you even bothering? I mean, the O-line is garbage, our TE can't catch anything, and Jordy Nelson....is WHITE. This defense is pourous and even though our qb is playing arguably better than an qb in history, who is he gonna throw to? James Jones? Greg Jennings is good, but he's injured. He also wears #12. Ya know who else wears #12? T.J. Rubley. I'm just sayin'....

Are we 10-0? Sure. But it's all "horsh/t"

MasterCheeks's picture

Im calling Tramon Williams Optimums Prime this week, he's taking down Megatron

AJKUHN's picture

WHY IS IT SO LOUD IN HERE?

Mark's picture

LOUD NOISES!

murphy's picture

WHAT?

FootballGods's picture

After watching Jordy’s touchdown from a different angle, I noticed he faked to reach back when the ball was in the air as if it was a back shoulder throw and then took off to completely seperate. Pick your poison because you just can’t stop it, it’s disgusting.

June's picture

Yeah, Aaron mentioned that Jordy thought it was going to be a back shoulder throw..but it helped him get that touchdown so that's all that matters :)

packsmack25's picture

Cow42 doesn't watch football.

Evan's picture

I thoughts noticed that. Impressive.

Evan's picture

*thought I

cow42's picture

WRONG.

Ruppert's picture

The Lions don't have anybody who can cover ANYBODY. What if Rodgers DOES get time to throw? We'll put up half a hundred. Honestly, this is a game where Rodgers could take 6 sacks and still put up 40.

The only way the Packers lose is because of turnovers, or of course if Rodgers goes down.

PS, who let that shouting drunk guy into this bar?

cow42's picture

-The Lions don’t have anybody who can cover ANYBODY.-

SURE. THAT'S WHY THEY'RE 5TH IN THE LEAGUE AGAINST THE PASS...GIVING UP OVER 100 YARDS LESS PER GAME THAN THE PACKERS. 100 YARDS LESS. 100 YARDS. 100.

RODGERS WILL HAVE MORE TURNOVERS THAN TD'S THIS GAME.

STOP SEEING ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

cow42's picture

OK - IT'S NOT 100. IT'S LIKE 90 SOMETHING... WHATEVER - IT'S A LOT.

packsmack25's picture

The Packers have played 4 of the top 10 passing offenses in the league and beaten them all. Like I said, this guy doesn't watch football.

cow42's picture

CONTINUE TO SEE WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

Tommyboy's picture

Cow, the Packers may lose tomorrow. I think we all know that's entirely possible. However, it seems like you predict catastrophe at every turn. If the Packers win tomorrow, I'm guessing you'll have been wrong for the 17th time in a row. Using all caps isn't going to change that. And if the Packers lose tomorrow, the world will continue to spin on it's axis.

Now, I'm not sure if you're a Lions fan or Vikings fan, but honestly, be objective and you'll get more credit.

cow42's picture

-Cow, the Packers may lose tomorrow. I think we all know that’s entirely possible.-

GO READ THROUGH EVERYONE'S COMMENTS. NOBODY SEEMS TO THINK THAT THE LIONS ARE GOING TO WIN. I STRONGLY DISAGREE. WHENEVER MY OPINION IS ATTACKED, I ATTEMPT TO STRENGTHEN MY ARGUMENT.

-Now, I’m not sure if you’re a Lions fan or Vikings fan, but honestly, be objective and you’ll get more credit.-

BLOW ME. I'M A PACKER FAN. I WOULD LIKE NOTHING MORE THAN TO SEE THE PACK WIN TOMORROW. BUT I DON'T SEE IT HAPPENING - FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS. THAT IS SEEING THINGS OBJECTIVELY. AS OPPOSED TO PREDICTING A PACKER WIN JUST BECAUSE I'M A PACKER FAN - WHICH EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO BE DOING.

Tommyboy's picture

Reading the comments everywhere, I see people being nervous, sayin the packers have a shot, and that they are the better team (c'mon, even you can't argue that last part).

"Blow me..."

You stay classy, cow.

So, I am to believe one of two things: 1) You're a vikings or lions fan (i'm leaning vikings) who trolls a packers blog or 2) you're a Packers fan who believes his best strategy to convince the masses is to dial up the obnoxi-o-meter and insult them.

Ruppert's picture

Dude, the Lions have played 6 games against teams who are 22nd or worse in pass offense.

The Lions secondary STINKS. Their corners STINK. Delmas is their best safety and he's not great in coverage. The other safeties STINK.

If Rodgers has any time at all, he throws for 380 and 5 scores.

Yes, the Pack could very well lose tomorrow. But the Packers are a better team, even with their laundry list of catastrophic flaws that you note...

Michael from Winnipeg's picture

I posted this reply in the "Feel the Power", but it bears repeating more appropriately here.

Thanks Aaron. You’ve erased my doubts in this game, and rejuvenated the high hopes we expect. “Screw the Lions, WE ARE THE PACKERS!”, should be MM’s pre-game speech. If your game plan, matches what MM plans, and does come to fruition, then it should be over by half-time. As long as its a win, and we dont suffer any catastrophes. Get in, just win, and get the hell out of Dodge.

mrjnumber1's picture

THE LOUDER YOUR ARGUMENT THE TRUER IT BECOMES. THAT'S WHAT WATCHING TV IN AMERICA HAS TAUGHT ME. THIS IS A SIMULATION. YOU KNOW I'M RIGHT.
SADLY.

mrjnumber1's picture

with that said, GO PACK GO!

Bearmeat's picture

Articles like this make me appreciate CHTV even more. Great breakdown Aaron. Thanks for all your hard work and enjoy the game today!

packsmack25's picture

THIS

packeraaron's picture

Thanks guys.

Bearmeat's picture

And on a side note. Every week when I go to opposing team's blogs to talk some football, I am astounded at the opposing fans lack of football understanding. I expect bias, but to say things like

"Nick Fairly is better than BJ Raji"

Blows my mind.

We are spoiled as Packer fans. Spoiled by our own passion and knowledge of our game. Spoiled by the many creative and intelligent bloggers and writers dedicated to the Packers.

Again, kudos!

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