Welcome to a special early edition of Opposition Research, where I’ll be taking a look at the Packers Thanksgiving opponent, the Detroit Lions. It’s been 6 weeks since the 26-0 shutout at Lambeau Field, with the Lions spending the intervening weeks losing to the Rams, Seahawks, and Vikings by a combined 40-76, before earning win #2 over the Browns 38-37 (Btw, Mangini's an idiot). It’s a quick turnaround for both teams, so let’s get look at what awaits the Packers in Detroit Rock City this year.
That's how tough he is. I almost want to cry. When you've got a teammate out there like that and he's willing to put it all on the line, there's no telling what his injury is, how serious it is. You kind of define the type of player you are and the type of person you are.
Stafford, who came back into the game after suffering a separated non-throwing shoulder, threw the game-winning score to fellow rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew with no time left on the clock. With that throw, Stafford became the first rookie quarterback since 1950 with five touchdown passes in a game, and he nearly doubled his TD total for the season (now 11). HC Jim Schwartz had the money quote on Stafford:
Matt's best play of the day might have been eluding four team doctors to get back on the field.
The fans at home are…reliving the 4th quarter rollercoaster, and hoping Stafford gets well soon (even Roger Goodell agrees that he's the future of that franchise). In a bitter development for both teams, injuries will be a significant factor in Thursday’s game. The Lions, who already headed into Sunday’s game with a long list of the wounded, will likely be without Stafford, who was reportedly fitted for a harness (must-read) and sling immediately after the game. The Packers lined up against Culpepper and Drew Stanton the last time around, holding each backup to a QB rating of 22, so the loss of Stafford hurts.
Meanwhile, the Packers lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris to season-ending knee injuries, opening the team to questions about whether that kind of pressure can still come from a unit down two long-time stalwarts. (Matt Bowen's take on the road back for Kamp & Al is a must-read.) Still, the Packers might be able to breathe a tiny sigh of relief -- there's a good chance that, just like the first go-round, neither Stafford nor standout wideout Calvin Johnson will see the field.
When looking at the Packers on film… the Lions (regardless of the QB that suits up on Thursday) have to be looking forward to taking on the Packers newly-vulnerable secondary. Without a second shutdown corner in the lineup, the Packers are unlikely to use many blitzing or dime packages (stellar film study by Tom Pelissero). All that said, Leroy Butler looks at the same film and thinks the Packers should be as aggressive, if not more so, going forward.)
On the other side of the line, the Lions defense has to be shaking in its boots. After giving up 37 points to the 31st-rated offense in the league, the Lions D faces a Packers offense that comes into town having run over San Francisco’s #3 rushing defense for 158 yards and having outgained the Niners 362-57 in first-half yardage.
Something to chew on…this has nothing to do with this week’s matchup, but it’s timely and welcome all the same. Roger Goodell, after much pressure from inside and outside the league, has changed the NFL’s policy on concussions. Now, before a player can get back on the field after a head injury, an independent neurologist or neurosurgeon must give the player the green light. No more Mr. Nice Team Doctor. With Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Marc Bulger suffering apparent head injuries on Sunday (and that’s only among QBs), this kind of change is likely for the best.
What We’re Up Against: There aren’t many scouting reports up yet for this game, but it’s a familiar foe. We all know that Calvin Johnson is a beast (but who’s throwing to him?). We know that Kevin Smith can run and catch out of the backfield (though he’s erratic). The Packer Report's Bill Huber notes that TE Brandon Pettigrew is hitting his stride. Andy Behrens has an interesting prediction:
Using our proprietary Brady Quinn-to-Aaron Rodgers conversion method, we forecast precisely 794 passing yards and eight touchdowns for A-Rod.
NFP has its head-to-head post up. Look for previews to go up here, here, here, here, and here (complete w/ video), within the next day or two. Also, here, here (this one's nifty), and here (sub. req'd).
Parting Shots (and Entertaining Stats):
- In contrast to Sunday’s game against the Browns, the Thanksgiving Lions-Packers game will not be blacked out in Detroit. As Brad Biggs at the NFP says, "The remote won’t save you from the Lions." After all, Lions on Thanksgiving is the one thing going for the team, and some folks think it's a tradition worth keeping.
- There are still tickets available, though, for those intrepid fans interested in crossing Lake Michigan for the 19th time the Packers have taken on the Lions on Turkey Day.
- Drew Stanton and his wife help out in the community by serving a turkey dinner to Detroit’s homeless.
- Mike McCarthy's Packers take care of the ball better than any club has in green (or blue) & gold. They lead in the league in turnover differential (+14) ahead of the Pats (+12) and the Saints (+10). The Packers are also 4th in time of possession at 33:23, behind the Patriots, Giants, and Steelers. (The Lions are 16th at 29:31.)
- Interesting tidbit - thus far in 6 home games in 2009, 47 people have been arrested and another 140 people have been ejected from Lambeau Field.
What’s different from the Week 6 match-up is simple: this Lions squad is a team with a future. They see what’s in front of them, and they’re excited about it. Even if the win came against the dregs of the league, this team has fight and confidence heading into Thursday’s holiday game. Be on your guard, folks – I expect the Lions to come out playing hard. But if we can get through this one with a quick-strike offense and some creative defensive scheming, the team can look forward to a second mini-bye week before the Ravens come visit on Monday night.
Happy Turkey Day to all. Go Pack!
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