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Game Preview: Packers at Lions, Week 3

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Game Preview: Packers at Lions, Week 3

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton by Mike DiNovo—USA TODAY Sports.

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton by Mike DiNovo—USA TODAY Sports.

The Green Bay Packers go on the road to take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field at noon CT on Sunday, televised on Fox.

 

The Big Picture: What's at Stake?

Following a comeback 31-24 victory over the New York Jets to even their record at 1-1, the Packers begin a streak of three consecutive games against NFC North division opponents, the first two on the road, starting with the Lions.

The Packers are looking for a better performance than their last meeting against the Lions, a 40-10 loss last Thanksgiving in Detroit, a game in which Green Bay was nowhere near competitive.

 

What to Watch When the Packers Have the Ball

A) Offensive tackles under fire: For a second straight week, Bryan Bulaga is listed as "questionable" on the Packers' injury report, and there's been no clear-cut answer whether he'll play against the Lions or not.

If Bulaga doesn't suit up, the Packers will go into the game with two tackles—David Bakhtiari and Derek Sherrod—both of whom struggled mightily in the Packers' debacle in Detroit last Thanksgiving.

Bakhtiari allowed three sacks, according to ProFootballFocus.com (premium content) and got schooled by Ziggy Ansah—who's also been listed as "questionable" for this week's game, while Sherrod has been on the hot seat for poor performances both in the preseason (at St. Louis) and early in the 2014 regular season (at Seattle). 

B) Interior offensive line vs. Ndamukong Suh: Ansah wasn't the only one lighting up the Packers in Detroit last season. Suh also came away with a sack and safety while dominating the interior of the Packers offensive line.

T.J. Lang, in particular, struggled against Suh, although being forced into playing center probably didn't help matters. Rookie Corey Linsley, whose strength is perhaps his best asset, might be equipped to better handle Suh from the center position, while Lang can settle back into his comfort zone at guard.

A long and notorious history between Suh and the Packers dates back to his "stomp" on Thanksgiving of 2011. Packers guard Josh Sitton last season called out the Lions for being dirty players and "scumbags." Sitton hasn't been outspoken in advance of this week's game, but he does let his play do the talking as the Packers' best lineman and is well-equipped to handle Suh as well.

C) Jordy Nelson's role in the passing game: Entering Week 3 in the NFL, Nelson led the league with 30 targeted passes, leading to questions whether the Packers pass game was becoming too one-dimensional.

Nelson, for his part, is doing his best to help the Packers win football games, covering over 200 yards and scoring a touchdown in the team's win over the Jets last week.

Randall Cobb, even though he hasn't been targeted as much as Nelson, has made a considerable contribution by scoring three touchdowns so far this season. And rookie wide receiver Davante Adams started to emerge against the Jets last week. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made few mistakes in his decision-making so far, and until he does, there's probably little to be concerned about.

 

What to Watch When the Lions Have the Ball

A) Stopping Calvin Johnson: As the best wide receiver in the NFL, there's obvious concern about facing Johnson and making sure he doesn't run wild through the Packers secondary.

In previous years, it was Tramon Williams that got the call to cover Johnson, but it appears the torch has been passed to the younger and faster Sam Shields. And don't rule out Davon House, who has an inch on both Williams and Shields and has been granted a bigger role on the Packers defense this season ahead of Casey Hayward in the early going.

As usual, look for the Packers to roll a safety to Johnson's side of the field, and the safeties could be in the crosshairs of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who might look to take advantage of a rookie like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Micah Hyde coming off a knee injury.

B) Complementing Mike Daniels on the line: The Packers don't need to worry about Daniels. He'll hold his own. As for the rest of the defensive line, that's another matter.

With B.J. Raji lost for the season having suffered a torn biceps, the Packers lost arguably their best run-stuffing defensive linemen and his replacements have been less than stellar. Neither Letroy Guion or Josh Boyd has done little to make a positive impact in the first two games of the season.

Could the Packers turn to undrafted rookie Mike Pennel? At 332 lbs., he's the biggest player on the team's roster, and at the very least, he probably can't do worse than Guion or Boyd.

C) Jamari Lattimore's encore: After a lackluster performance in the season opener compounded by a quad injury, Brad Jones has been ruled out of the Lions game and Lattimore will make his second-consecutive start.

In his first start of 2014 against the Jets, Lattimore graded out as the defense's third-highest player per ProFootballFocus.com, behind Julius Peppers and Mike Daniels, and while third-best might not seem all that great, it was leaps and bounds better than Jones in Week 1.

Looking at the bigger picture, Lattimore's performance on Sunday could have far-reaching effects. It will contribute to the decision whether he could keep the job for the remainder of the season, even when Jones is healthy. And with Lattimore playing under a one-year contract, it could have an impact on the next contract he signs.

 

What to Watch on Special Teams

Comparing the Packers return game to Jeremy Ross: Ever since the Packers released Ross midway through the 2013 season, he seems to have hit his stride in Detroit as the team's return specialist.

In 2013, Ross was one of the best return men in the NFL, scoring on both kicks and punts for the Lions. Had his 15 attempts qualified, he would have led the NFL with a 16.2-yard punt return average.

Since releasing Ross, the Packers have struggled on kick returns, although they seem to be in good shape on punt returns, using a combination of Randall Cobb and Micah Hyde. 

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (2) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

Rodgers has got to get the ball out of his hands quicker or all those hits he keeps taking will begin to take a toll.

pooch's picture

Need Buliga today and need to see Pennels debut for victory

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