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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Lions-The Battle in the Motor City

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Key Matchups: Packers vs. Lions-The Battle in the Motor City

The Green Bay Packers find themselves in an odd situation as they are coming off of a 22-0 shutout of the Bills, and yet still find themselves with a feeling of uneasiness and drama within the organization which is leading some to panic over the poor offensive display last week.  Every press conference and every statement about the offense, as well as Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers relationship that has been made to the media, has been scrutinized and magnified causing many to wonder whether Mike McCarthy is coaching his way towards the unemployment line.  

With all the drama surrounding the Packers offense, many believe that this week's first divisional road game against the Detroit Lions is a statement game.  If the Packers were to fall this week to the Lions and drop their record to 2-2-1, that would certainly send the fan base and the media into a ”The World is Falling” type of frenzy.  However, the numbers simply do not back up the sudden rush to judgment of the 2018 Green Bay Packers.  Zach Kruse of packers wire puts everyone's overreactions into perspective with some pro football focus grades from key members on the Packers 53 man roster.

It is clear that the numbers indicate that the team will play up to their talent at some point this year, so we all just need to R-E-L-A-X, give it some time, and allow the Packers to work out the kinks and come into their own as the season progresses. Remember, Mike McCarthy lead teams often struggle early out of the gate in the regular season and finish strong in November and December.

Having provided you with this brief defense of Mike McCarthy, I still will be the first to admit that he needs to be more fluid with his gameplan and adjust to the situation rather than being so stubborn with his designed plays and targeted reps as we see week after week and season after season.  

These are just a few of the key matchups that I think will determine the outcome of the game this Sunday:

1. Stubborn McCarthy vs. Rational McCarthy:

This week, as the team heads into Detroit, it will be interesting to see how much Mike McCarthy's gameplan evolves with the absence of Randall Cobb and the possible/probable absence of Geronimo Allison.  We will certainly see whether McCarthy trusts young receivers like Marques Valdes-Scantling and Equanimous St. Brown enough to call the same plays that he has been calling for much of the season, or whether he will rely on his more experienced personnel groups at the Tight End and Running Back positions.  

Look for the Packers to split Jimmy Graham opposite Davante Adams and use Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis on both sides of the line at the tight end position.  If I were McCarthy, I would pick my spots and sprinkle in MVS on some deep shot and wide receiver screen plays and use ESB only in 4 or 5 wide receiver situations.  

I believe that a Packer win or loss this week in Detroit will fall on the shoulders of the offensive unit...yes, that should tell you just how much I trust the Packers defense to make plays and keep the Packers in a favorable position to win the game in the 4th quarter.  

2. Mike McCarthy vs. Aaron Jones: 

Aaron Jones lack of touches falls solely on the shoulders of Mike McCarthy, however, I do believe that McCarthy has his reasons (rational or not) for limiting Jones's touches.  McCarthy has been leaning heavily on the analytics department to establish a targeted amount of reps for all of his personnel groups.  It is not a secret that McCarthy is also as stubborn as a mule and is teaching Aaron Jones a lesson for missing the first two games of the season because of a substance abuse suspension.  

Aaron Jones has clearly established himself as the best running back on the Packers roster and has ”earned” his reps as the primary option.  With the receiving core in all likelihood being limited to just Davante Adams, McCarthy could and should tap Jones for 20 carries and 5 targets out of the backfield.  

So you must be thinking, how in the world can I think that Jones will suddenly receive 20 carries in McCarthy's offensive gameplan after failing to receive double-digit carries all season long? Well, if McCarthy is steadfast about his running backs not going over their targeted amount of repetitions for the season, Jones is due to receive the bulk of the carries at sometime soon so that Williams and Montgomery do not exceed their targeted reps.  Jones has slowly worked his way back into the game plan and has proven how much of a game changer that he is through the limited reps that he has received in the two games since his return, so I would expect his workload to increase dramatically. 

I expect Aaron Jones to have 17-20 carries for 100 yards 1 Touchdown, 5 receptions for 50 yards in the screen game.  

I expect McCarthy to tap the running game for 30-35 carries and control the clock and the pace of the game.  

3. Can the defense shine when the lights are the brightest? Pettine vs. Jim Bob Cooter

After their first shutout since 2010, the Packers defense has been praised for their ”championship caliber” performance against the Bills all week long and now they will be able to prove that last weeks performance was not an anomaly.  There is not a doubt that the Packers defense is a much-improved unit under Mike Pettine, however, many have downplayed their improvement because the shutout last week was against a lowly Buffalo Bills offensive unit with a rookie quarterback at the helm.  

On Sunday Afternoon, the Packers defense will look to silence their doubters and turn in a solid performance in their first road divisional performance of the year.  I look for Mike Pettine to send pressure early and often with his front seven through both the A gap as well as the outside.  The Packers will look for Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark to soften up the Lions offensive line by providing penetration so that Pettine’s blitzers will be able to consistently get to Matthew Stafford.  

If the front seven can successfully get consistent pressure on Stafford, look for Tramon Williams, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Haha Clinton-Dix, and company to have a field day making plays on Stafford's hurried and forced throws.  

Predictions:

  • I look for the defense to travel from Lambeau to Detroit and prove that last weeks performance was not a fluke.
  • I believe that the Packers defense will hold the Lions under 20 points.
  • I expect Aaron Jones to have 17-20 carries and 22-25 touches overall. 
  • I think that the defense turns Matthew Stafford over at least two times.
  • I look for Aaron Rodgers to start to come around and for the offense to run more crisply.
  • I am predicting that the Packers win by a score of 24-17. 

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (57) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

porupack's picture

Your numbers from PFF seem consistent with the concern from cheeseland on the offense. No WRs or TEs among peers in their respective groups. That isn't all bad considering GB is balanced group of good corps, not unbalanced corps with a superstar. But still, there should at least be a TE of distinction. So, if that trend continues with a MLewis or JGraham not appearing, then that will again be a MM fingerpointing week. One of those 2 guys should be hitting 80--120 yds per game....otherwise, what was the point for buying FA TEs this offseason (and previous)?

I'll re-imagine MM through my rose-colored sunglasses today, and predict JGraham and MLewis to combine for 150 yds.

Oppy's picture

Expecting either TE to average 80-120 yards per game is unreasonable.

Marcedes Lewis career average YPG is 25.9 YPG, career high of 43.8 in 2010.

Jimmy Graham's career average is under 56 YPG, and he only topped 80 once in his career, with 82 YPG in 2011.

Finley, 39.8, career high was 60.2 in 2010.

Tony Gonzales, Career average, 56 YPG, Career high of 78.6 in 2004.

Rob Gronkowski, most prolific TE in the league *probably ever* career average 70 YPG... Gronk only eclipsed an 80 average twice in his career- in 2011 (82.9) and 2013 (84.6).

I will point out that Jared Cook after 4 games is averaging an astonishing 92.5 YPG in a very small sample size of 4 weeks. He had a monster week 1 of 180 yards, and a huge week 4 with 110 yards. Inbetween, 49 and 31 yards... Cook's career average yards per game is 36 YPG, career high of 47.4 in 2011.

Oppy's picture

After looking over the numbers, I think a reasonable expectation for any TE would be hitting 40-60 yards per game. Looking at guys like Cook, Gonzales, Finley, Gronk, etc, 40 seems like a decent baseline average that shows a positive contribution to an offense, and once you get past an average of 60 YPG, you are entering the territory of historically elite TE's in their primes. Certainly, 70 YPG is a mark rarely ever seen in a single year, much less over a career. Hats off to Gronk. When we're specifically talking about Graham and Lewis, they are at the ends of their careers.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Is Graham a TE or should we be using WR stats for him? Or some combination of the two?

Oppy's picture

I don't know that it would make much of a difference, except it would make Jimmy Graham's career look worse. 80-120 YPG would be ~ a 1,200 to 2,000 yard season. I still don't know that expecting a 31-year old Graham to achieve 80 yards per game (minimum) is anywhere near realistic considering his history of production.

henry113's picture

A strong run game eats clock. We have to limit the minutes the defense is on the field. It looks like our guys have been gassed in the 4th quarter. It also makes us a little more unpredictable.

PatrickGB's picture

David M. I pretty much agree with all you wrote except for one prediction. I think that Stafford and company will score more than twenty points. It may come from a last quarter push or from lots of field goals. I just don’t see that team under twenty.
Right now, I don’t have much of a clue about our rookie WRs. But I do know that Rodgers can make the throws to them and it’s up to them to get open and catch the ball.
Oh, and I am glad we kept seven receivers on cut down day.

EdsLaces's picture

True dat. No way we hold em under 20. 3 legit Wrs ...not 2 but 3. That's gonna be hard to stop.

cheesehead1's picture

Our D needs to keep up their play like the last six quarters. Big test against a much better QB in Stafford. Still don’t know how this D will fare overall. After weeks 8 and 9 (Rams/Pats) we’ll have a true guide as to how much we’ve “hopefully” improved on D. Go Pack!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I'm really hoping the Packers mix it ip in terms of Personnel and Looks. Teams where able to be successful doing it vs the Patroits last season. I'd love to see it tomorrow. Especially 2-2 personnel with Monty coming out of the backfield. Stuff like play action to Jones and pass to Monty on a wheel route. Force the Defense to cover at all levels then take some deeper targets to MVS and Company.

Bearmeat's picture

I think this picture of our defense is very sunny. Matt Stafford is a top 8 QB. They have 3 top 40 WRs. The promise of the young guys notwithstanding, we don't have the secondary (or the pass rush) to nullify the Lions strength in the passing game.

If we win, (and I do think this will be a very close game), it will be because we kept the ball for at least 35 minutes on offense, and did not turn it over.

The TKstinator's picture

Whenceupon the faithful wail and gnash their teeth in angst, I remain the steadfast realist via the mantra “next man up” yet it yields less results than upon a midnight dreary, weak and weary...signifying nothing.

Oppy's picture

"Whenceupon the faithful wail and gnash their teeth in angst"
Semi biblical, is this your own amalgamation of words, or is it from literature somewhere? The meter of it is infectious!

dobber's picture

The amalgamation was aforementioned.

The TKstinator's picture

I’m a bit of a plagiarist at heart, but I’m also a sucker for a nice amalgamation. When my kids were little, we used to love Wallace and Gromit. The amalgamation skills of those artists: staggering!

Wilson Maywick's picture

You get a thumbs up for the Wallace and Gromit drop. Awesomeness.

henry113's picture

TK, Im not that smart but it sounds good.

The TKstinator's picture

Thank you for the kind words.

PackfanNY's picture

I just read Rob Demovsky (ESPN) reporting that in addition to a concussion Geronimo Allison is now dealing with a hamstring injury. When the hell did that happen as Allison has not practiced all week due to the concussion? We now have 8 players listed as "questionable' in addition to Cobb's "out".

Rufus's picture

Im sure by tomorrow we will have a few more. Someone will probably dislocate something in practice. The most accident prone team ever

Jonathan Spader's picture

Guess you didn't watch Thursday night football where Colt players were dropping like flies.

flackcatcher's picture

After games it may take up to three days for leg and shoulder injuries to show up. Mostly teams have to wait for the bodies to recover so they can do scans or med exams of players. And there is the player not knowing how badly he is hurt until they get back out on the practice field. In Allison's case, the Hammy didn't show up till be got back on the field as part of the NFL standard per concussion. Bet both the team doctors and Allison were surprised when the hamstring injury 'popped up'.

Nick Perry's picture

"I expect Aaron Jones to have 17-20 carries for 100 yards 1 Touchdown, 5 receptions for 50 yards in the screen game."

"I expect McCarthy to tap the running game for 30-35 carries and control the clock and the pace of the game."

This is EXACTLY how the Packers beat the Lions. Even if Montgomery cuts into Jones receptions OR grabs 5 or 6 of his own and Williams gets 8 to 10 carries himself it won't matter WHO plays WR. McCarthy has 3 TE's who together are actually a pretty damn fine group and McCarthy and Williams are a pretty nice tandem to go with Jones.

Jones has played 2 games now and has practiced for another 4 weeks...He's READY for 20 carries a game like Bearmeat suggested. Montgomery could be every bit as effective as James White or any other receiving RB New England has had over the years. It's all on McCarthy to figure out.

Kb999's picture

NO agreed.

Kb999's picture

Sorry, NP agreed.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree.

Ryan B Dub's picture

Focus on getting running backs touches, and utilizing tight end group, but also adjusting to what is working. I think Mike can lay an egg in Detroit pretty easily, but I’m thinking the Packers are ready to roll on offense. It’s time to get closer to an identity. Detroit is going to score. Packers will need to perform under pressure on the road. The youth of this team needs to get some work. Mercedes Lewis and Tonyan need some snaps as well. I’ve seen what Jimmy Graham can’t do for a few years now.

croatpackfan's picture

Regarding Aaron Jones issue, it looks lot of Packers fans react like freshman ready to have his first sex. Inpatient and ready to squirt... You still have not learned that it is better with gradually foreplay, which allows longer duration of pleasure ... Just that on the subject!

Second, Packers D can collapse, as we saw during 4th Q against Vikings and 1st half against Redskins, but, I truly believe they learned the lesson. Kevin King is back and I expect Packers D, the same that kept Alex Smith at only 3 points for 2 Q, can show some excellent performance. Not a shutout, but I believe they can keep Lions under 20 points...

Lare's picture

Um,.....Well,.... whatever you say.

4thand10's picture

I thought I was on the wrong website for a minute. 50 shades of cheese.

The TKstinator's picture

Hear, hear.

Tundraboy's picture

Please. Enough with all the excuses for MM. We have talented running backs,use them. We have at least two decent tight ends,use them. We all know we're going to have a totally different TE group next year , still need to draft one, so MM is going to not fully utilize Lewis? Why did we sign him then?

Nick Perry's picture

WTF Croat.... Not only is that the strangest attempt of an analogy but it's also the most disgusting. If I may suggest a little less lecturing to your fellow Packers fans and more on the subject of why we're all her...The Packers!

Bearmeat's picture

LOL!

I didn't read his post until I saw your response. Then I had to go back and read what you were responding to..... Wishing I hadn't.....

The TKstinator's picture

I am still attempting to unread it myself.

Barazinho's picture

Giggity..

ILPackerBacker's picture

The very simple and easy to check items just underline the bad conclusions. It takes hours to double check carries and then to decide if 11 is double digits.

Aaron Jones added 65 yards and a score on 11 carries for the Packers, who slowed in the second half after a fast start on offense.

dobber's picture

I wonder if people calling here for the Packers to commit to the run game will turn around on Sunday evening and complain that MM took his foot off the gas in the second half if the Packers get a lead?

Tarynfor12's picture

Some demand that which they're not sure they want, and then scream about getting what they weren't sure of, when they get it.
: )

The TKstinator's picture

See my post above.

The TKstinator's picture

Um, okay, DON’T see my post above??

Tundraboy's picture

Depends on which run game. If its run into the line and hope for a hole. No. If it's dynamic, using all three running backs. Yes. We can score that way as well. And still keep our foot on the gas.

Tarynfor12's picture

Ditto for the Lions.

The TKstinator's picture

Not sure if all 3 can carry on the same play....now THAT would be creative! ;)

Rufus's picture

I hope the "D" dosnt take a week off. Stafford is not Josh Allen. He will put up some points if the "D" cant put pressure on him. Thats my concern. The Packers offense will score on the Lions. This game may be closer than we think.

Kb999's picture

I hope the officials don't screw this game up with there flag football calls. If Clay & the boys can sack Stafford and not get called for roughing then we could win big.

Since '61's picture

I've noted that TJ Lang is out this week with a concussion. His absence may enable our interior DLs to get some pressure up the middle on Stafford and hopefully get a few sacks, cause some bad throws and create a TO or 2.

Given the state of our WR corps and with Rodgers off the injury report I can see Rodgers keeping a few drives alive with his legs. Unless the Packers can move the ball effectively on the ground this could be a shootout type of game. Thanks, Since '61

I bleed green more's picture

Tonyan anyone, he can catch the ball and runs pass routes.

fastmoving's picture

…..but all of the 3 WR Rookies can do at least the same and are way faster. so I would go with them first and more often. But I would give the young TE some snaps too, thats for sure and see where it goes from there.

But I dont know if thats on MM mind...….would be a huge surprise. Maybe Philbin can talk him in that kind of stuff.

PAPackerbacker's picture

This is a good game to get the running backs more involved. Get Jones involved early and give him 20 or more touches. And this would be a great opportunity to get Tonyan involved as well as the other TE's. Put Lewis in the backfield with Jones and see how it develops. Once in the red zone go to a 3 TE set with Graham, Lewis, and Tonyan. And it's time for the rookie WR's to step up and show what they can do as well. They have blazing speed at the WR position and need to put it to the test against the Lions. With a good run and pass balance I think the Packers win, but it will be a tough contest because Stafford can air it out with the best of them. He has a strong arm. I hope it's not a shoot out but more of a controlled and balanced attack by the Packers. Would be nice to see at least 2 rushing TD's by the Packers in this game. And 2 through the air and 1 by the defense. Go! Pack! Go!

Archie's picture

Lions 24
Packers 17

Pack would need to be very creative to beat the Lions missing 2.5 WRs. Like playing 2 RBs at once and throwing to them all day.

But, alas, we all know creativity is not MM's long suit.

MM will start out mostly running the ball with a few short throws mixed in. And yes the Lions run defense is suspect. So MM will be encouraged to stay the course.

Meanwhile, Lions O will take the early lead with a bombs away offense. They will expand that lead until MM is forced to capitulate and abandon his game plan. At this point, Lions coverage will take Adams away, leaving 12 with 3 rookie WRs and 2 old TEs on old legs to throw to. Turnovers will happen.

Finally, Patricia relies on his stud rookie RB to run out Q4 clock.

2nd Prediction: MM officially on the hot seat after today's loss to weak divisional rival.

Nick Perry's picture

Considering the Lions are 1-3 I guess they haven't did much relying on "the rookie stud RB to run out the clock" and it ain't starting this week either.

MarkinMadison's picture

I've been pretty conservative/pessimistic about this season so far. I called Chicago a "coin toss" game. I expected a loss to the Vikings. I thought we would beat Washington (who didn't), and I thought the Bills were bad, but I didn't like how they matched up with the Packers. I like the Packers v. the Lions quite a bit.

Stafford has already thrown 5 INTs (v. 1 by #12). I know their receivers are good, but I think that the Packers are faster on the back end this year than they were in the past. I think this D-line will get some pressure and Stafford will make some mistakes. Importantly, Detroit is really really thin at TE, an area where the Packers have continued to struggle.

This is not your older brother's Detroit Lion defense. They are not the force up front that they were even a few years ago. There is a respectable amount of production there, but I don't think they change the game. Control Kennard at LB, and I think this defense can be had. Yes, the Packers are thin at WR today, but they can game plan around it, or MM can admit that he is a "highly successful" NFL head coach because he has had great QBs and hang it up.

Packers 34-24.

flackcatcher's picture

Just a reminder folks. As other commenters have pointed out, while Stafford blows hot and cold, he is a top ten QB in this league with a pretty powerful offense. The New England game is a powerful reminder of how good Stafford can be. No matter how we fans would like to see the Packers run the ball, the Packers will not have that luxury as long as Matt Stafford is QB1 for the Lions. This game will fall on the shoulders of our secondary, contain Stafford and the Packers win. Same thing for the Lions, if their secondary holds up then they have a chance, a slim chance, but in the NFL that's all you need. Still I think Packers win, at this stage of the season they are the better football team.

DD's picture

One thing says it all: MM gameplan period.

Rufus's picture

Thats what scares me, MM game plan.

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