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Packers vs. Lions: 5 Things to Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. Lions: 5 Things to Watch and a Prediction

The Green Bay Packers (11-4) will welcome the Detroit Lions (11-4) to Lambeau Field for a Week 17 showdown that will determine the NFC North champion and the recipient of at least a first-round bye in the conference playoffs. 

Here’s five things to watch and a prediction: 

 

1. Lacy vs. the Wall

It would not be a stretch to say the Lions have produced one of the best seasons against the run of the last 15-20 years. Opponents are averaging 3.07 yards per carry against Detroit, the seventh best mark since 1990. The Lions also haven’t allowed an individual 100-yard rusher and only one team—the New York Jets (132)—have rushed for over 100 total yards. The Packers’ quietly established running game might give the Lions one of the best tests of their season. Green Bay is fifth in total rushing yards (985) and third in yards per attempt (4.85) since Week 10, while running back Eddie Lacy has rushed for 492 yards at 5.4 yards per carry over the last five games. The Packers have rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games. Sunday appears to be strength against strength, Lions run defense against Packers rushing offense. There will still be temptation for Mike McCarthy to avoid the run and attempt to emulate New England’s successful pass-heavy gameplan against Detroit. But he really should look back to last season, when Lacy carried 23 times and the Packers were able to grind out a 22-9 win over the Lions at Lambeau Field. 

 

2. Peppers’ Time

Julius Peppers produced one of the best games of his season back in Week 3, when he tormented right tackles Garrett Reynolds and Cornelius Lucas for a red zone strip-sack and two other quarterback hits. It will be Lucas on the right side Sunday. Peppers, who had two sacks in Tampa Bay in Week 16, will again need to play a big part in Green Bay’s pressure package. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has taken 43 sacks this season, including 16 during Detroit’s four losses. And he’s completing under 45 percent of his passes when under pressure. The Packers simply can’t let Stafford find his way away from Detroit, where his passer rating is a pedestrian 72.8 on the road this season. One side note: Green Bay has lost just four times at home since 2011; the opposing quarterbacks in those games threw nine touchdowns against just one interception. It takes strong quarterback play to beat the Packers at home. 

 

3. Overshadowed

The Lions defense outscored the Packers offense in the first meeting, 9-7. But mostly overlooked from that game was the steady performance from the Green Bay defense, which allowed only 10 total points—including only three over the first three quarters. The lone Detroit field goal came on the possession following the safety. The Lions eventually wore down the Packers and punched in a touchdown late, but there’s no shame in allowing just 10 points on the road. Davon House and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix both intercepted Stafford and the Lions averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. A repeat defensive effort should be more than enough for a home victory. Dom Capers’ unit should also be as confident as its been all season after manhandling Kyle Orton and the Bills and Josh McCown and the Bucs in back-to-back weeks. 

 

4. Statement Game

Just about any metric of offensive line play will tell you the same story: the Packers’ front five on offense represent one of the more underrated units in football. Green Bay is currently seventh in run-blocking at Football Outsiders and third in pass-blocking at Pro Football Focus. Lacy is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, while Aaron Rodgers is on pace to be sacked just 30 times (which would be a new career low, not including 2013). Yet this still isn’t a group that many outside the state of Wisconsin recognize as a top offensive line. Sunday provides an opportunity for the Packers to show the rest of the football world how good they now are up front on offense. Win the battle or manage a draw with Detroit and the Packers will prove themselves capable of handling any front four in football. 

 

5. Beat the Blueprint

It’s no mystery how the Lions will play the Packers offense Sunday. The blueprint is well established:  disciplined pressure from the front four, with both safeties deep and physical man-to-man coverage behind it. Don’t plan on Detroit getting cute in the finale. In the first meeting, the Lions played primarily nickel defense—with six defensive backs and both safeties situated well off the football. Detroit still stopped the run cold. The same scenario can’t play out again Sunday. The Packers need to run the football when the numbers are in their favor at the line of scrimmage. It’s the only way to eliminate a deep safety and open up the big play. How the Packers offense fares at home Sunday will be a great indicator of how capable this team is of a deep playoff run. If the blueprint is once again executed, and at Lambeau Field this time around, it’s difficult to see how the Packers will get out of the NFC in January.

 

Prediction: Packers 20, Lions 17 (10-5)

An ugly, grind-it-out game with a close final seems like a lock. These are two battle tested teams with Super Bowl aspirations. So much on the line. Playing at home, where Aaron Rodgers has a 132.0 passer rating this season, gives the Packers the slightest edge. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

What would be outstanding is the Packers blowing the "Blueprint" up. The OL is playing outstanding and Lacy seems to be just getting warmed up and getting stronger. Would love to see Adams have another game like he did against New England. Moving forward the Packers are going to need production from him and the TE group. The Packers will continue to play good defense, create 2 TO, 5 sacks, and win 24-13.

TommyG's picture

We've seen this darn blueprint so many times I would really hope that MM and AR can finally tear it apart. How good would that look heading into the post season, if cover 2 was no longer effective? Zach is right about this game being very telling about our super bowl aspirations. I believe he is also correct in predicting the final score. Those of us who do shots for each Packers touchdown might want to switch to doing them for each first down.

Lphill's picture

no close game here, Packers send a message, take care of the Lions no problem, its time. Pack 30 Lions 14

Nick Perry's picture

WOW!!!! Did you call that one!!!! If not for that goofy punt after the safety that would have ended up being the final score!!!! Good job!

zerotolerance's picture

Look for a Cobb option pass today. I think they have been saving it for a game like today's.

Mario Willis's picture

The 7 man in coverage style protection has made the Packers look MORTAL the past few weeks on OFFENSE.

Linsley has had time to learn his position and having cut that BUM Derek Sherrod should make things less scary on the offensive line.
I suspect that this will be a low scoring game that will come down to DEFENSE but having seen the BEARS put up 20+ points on the Lions last week they don't look like the #2 defense everyone keeps talking about.

zerotolerance's picture

It would be very difficult for anyone to come back and be a player after two displaced fractures in a single leg.

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

Yeah I know, but I'm back. I believe there is a better than Good Chance that the road to the SB in the NFC goes through Lambeau. LVT

LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

Yeah, it doesn't seem likely, but the last 10 years tell me it's a Good Possibility. I wouldn't mind beating them at their place, if it comes to that. That wouldn't bother me at all. If we're healthy, I like our chances either place. Up the middle is still my main concern. LVT

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