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Packers vs. Lions: Rants & Raves

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Packers vs. Lions: Rants & Raves

Another week, another do-or-die game for the Green Bay Packers.  While the mathematics never indicated that they were in a true "must win" situation, let's be honest.  The Packers needed to turn things around and win every game since they fell to 4-6 if there was any hope of making something of the 2016 season.  Back then, we were talking about draft position and the bevy of firings and changes that were likely to take place following this last game against the Detroit Lions.  Looking back at last year, the Packers started out 6-0 and finished 4-6.  This year, they started 4-6 and have a chance to finish 6-0 and make it a 10-6 two years straight.  Last year, the Packers made the postseason with that mark and if they complete their table run and finish 10-6, they'll secure yet another postseason appearance.

Win and the Packers are NFC North division champions and will host the New York Giants the following week in the Wild Card round.  Lose and their only way in is a Washington loss to those same Giants.  Last season, the Packers lost their week 17 game at home and the Minnesota Vikings won the North, although both teams made the postseason.  The Vikes got the Seattle Seahawks at home while the Packers traveled to Washington.  Match ups matter and there was some talk that Green Bay wasn't too heartbroken about losing the division title since they avoided the Seahawks for a week and got what seemed to be an easier game.  While Minnesota should have beaten Seattle, they didn't and the Packers trounced Washington, living to fight another week.  Might the Giants be thinking ahead to week 18 and their desire to avoid a red hot Packers team?  The G Men would never admit it out loud but if they happen to lose to Washington, they stick the Packers in a true do-or-die against the Lions.  Green Bay's only option at that point is to beat the Lions to extend their season.  The silver lining in that scenario is that the Packers will enter their Sunday night game against the Lions knowing exactly what they need to do in order to reach the playoffs.

On to this week's bullet points for the positive and the worriers.


Pass Or Fail

The story of the week has been whether or not the Packers secondary can hold up against Detroit's passing attack.  Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had his most passing yards this season against Green Bay in week three with 385.  The Packers jumped out to an early lead and it led to Stafford throwing 41 times so that total may be a bit inflated, but in looking at his performance against some of the lesser passing defenses this season, Stafford has taken advantage.  He had three touchdown passes against the Indianapolis Colts, Packers and Philadelphia Eagles and four against the Los Angeles Rams.  He hasn't had more than two in a game since mid-October.

It's no secret that Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will get after Green Bay's banged up secondary early and often.  Tight end Eric Ebron was on his way to a nice day against the Packers before cornerback Damarious Randall took the ball right out of his hands on his way to the ground for what was credited as an interception.  Ebron is a match up problem for most secondaries but he's also been his own worst enemy with drops.  Still, the Packers are going to have their hands full and have struggled at times against bigger passing targets.  If you're looking for signs of hope, Morgan Burnett made Seattle's Jimmy Graham a virtual ghost a few weeks back when the two teams met.

As for the actual receivers themselves, there is no easy solution for Green Bay.  Marvin Jones had two touchdown catches in the first meeting back in September.  He's had four all season but he's the type of receiver that can make fools out of Green Bay's young corners in Damarious Randall and LaDarius Gunter.  Both Randall and Gunter are dealing with injuries but are expected to play.  Quinten Rollins has struggled lately and had a particularly rough outing against the Vikings last week.  Beyond Jones are veterans Golden Tate, who needs no introduction to the Packers nor their fans and Anquan Boldin, another who has had some big days against Green Bay.  In a winner-take-all scenario, Detroit's passing attack stacks up well with a combination of speed and savvy to make the tough catches in short yardage situations.  

If the Lions can throw it well, they can win.  If they don't, they can't.  The Packers need to come up with another day where they play above their own heads and force a turnover or two.

Fast Track Blues

The Packers have only played two games indoors this year, both losses.  The first was against the Vikings in a game they had chances to try and win.  The latest was a loss to the Atlanta Falcons that Green Bay also had chances to win but weren't able to keep the Falcons out of the end zone late.  The Packers offense can benefit from the lack of elements and a faster track but can the defense keep up with the Lions' speed?  The three teams are all different so the venue shouldn't make much of a difference, but was something that stuck out in terms of this season and past performances.


Most Valuable Packers

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been playing out of his mind over the past six games.  During that span he's had a passer rating over 100 in all but one game, hasn't thrown an interception and has 14 touchdowns.  Where not long ago we were all asking what was wrong with #12, we're now wondering how legitimate his chances are of winning MVP this year.  What isn't measured on the field are the confidence and amount of fun Rodgers is having on the field.  He's loose, laughing and all smiles at the podium when talking to the media.  Sure, some of that can be an act to convey confidence but this seems genuine by Rodgers.  He opined that he felt that this Packers team could win out after the loss at Washington.  Largely because of himself, they are four quarters away from doing just that, and more.

Receiver Jordy Nelson continues his own tear since recovering from the tear.  Targeted no fewer than 10 times per game in four of his last five, he has five touchdown catches during that time and currently leads the NFL with 14.  As the season has worn on, Nelson has resumed his back shoulder and sideline catches that have been a safety valve for Rodgers and the offense.  He added in a big deep ball against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago and should once again be drawing safety help from opponents.  The problem with that?  Teams can't simply play press man coverage and challenge the receivers to get off the ball like they did last year.  Once they revert to zone coverage to keep Nelson in check, the rest of the offense eats.  And try as they may, opposing defenses aren't keeping Nelson in check.  Good luck this week, Teryl Austin.  Nelson is a man on a mission lately.  The usually laid back receiver has been more demonstrative after his scores and has some of that swagger that we grew accustomed to before his injury.  Like I've said before, Nelson isn't coming back, he is back.

Clay Matthews reminded us all what he can do when he's healthy in the game against the Vikings.  A sack, strip fumble and two passes broken up (his only two of the season) weren't a bad day at the office for the Claymaker.  Since his separated shoulder against the Eagles, Matthews has basically been a hologram.  His presence on passing downs has drawn attention in pass protection but with his improved health, he'll continue to be an influence and open up opportunities for those around him.  Matthews moved inside last year and was a big help when the Packers lost Sam Barrington and were slowly bringing Jake Ryan along.  He did so earlier this year and sat out a few games in an effort to recover despite his likely lobbying to be on the field.  Many say Matthews is over paid and that his skills are falling off but as long as he's able to make those two or three big plays each week, he's a huge asset to the Packers.

McCarthy's Red Scare

Remember last year during a rough November when head coach Mike McCarthy talked about his players and coaches having a "red ass" after getting beat soundly a few times?  Do you also remember the same head coach having a red ass just one month ago because his seat was so hot?  I think it's safe to say that we're, at least for the moment, past that.  For as much criticism as McCarthy has taken for his play calling, game management and the control he does or doesn't have over this team, they have surely responded to and for him.

McCarthy has drawn up some good game plans for big games and this week should be no different.  With an opportunity to emphatically stamp this season "highly successful", I expect McCarthy to bring some fireworks with him to Detroit.  He knows that Lions crowd is loud from the get go but can easily be turned off if his offense can put up some early points.  Look for the offense to take some chances early on to create big plays.  Detroit cornerback Darius Slay will likely play but has been dealing with a hamstring injury lately so they may test his ability to cover the deep ball.  

While it may not ultimately become a "win or go home" proposition for the Packers, McCarthy will prepare them as though it is.  He doesn't play around with hypotehcials and over think scenarios.  His confidence in his team never waned even after their sixth loss and it's time for them to pay him back with a division title and another game to play next week.





Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PETER MAIZ's picture

Very well written by Jason. And thanks for reminding us that this is no cakewalk. It's better to see reality as it is than to predict the game through rose colored glasses.
I think that even if the Packers can muster a victory on the Lion's field, McCarthy will finally get rid of Dom. Dom's scheme is too complex and it may seem that Joe Whitt, for as much as he is respected, can't get Randall and Rollings going. Although one must admit, they are both fighting with injuries.
The whole game will come down to stopping an improved 2016 Stafford. It would be nice if the sacks and hurries come through as needed. Please McCarthy, a lot of first downs to keep Stafford outside looking in!

dobber's picture

"The Packers offense can benefit from the lack of elements and a faster track but can the defense keep up with the Lions' speed? "

We disagree in that the Lions aren't a "fast" team. They really don't stretch the field well and they play slower when Riddick is out (which he is). They struggle to run the football, and they're a "catch-and-run" passing team, which is part of why Stafford has looked good. The last couple weeks, defenses have taken that away from them and forced Stafford to throw downfield more, which he hasn't been able to do with accuracy.

jasonperone's picture

I get what you're saying and at face value you're probably right but I said that in relation to what the Packers have to match up. Randall, Rollins, Hyde and Gunter are not fast, either because they just aren't or due to injury. I'd still give the edge to Jones and Tate there. I'd even throw Ebron in there too. Burnett isn't a burner and we know the ILB's aren't that quick. This is a big reason why I see a high scoring game.

Samson's picture

You've pointed out what may very well be the key to the entire game. --- If Stafford gets enough time most of the time to throw the ball, I'm not sure GB's defensive backfield will be able to keep up. --- A few picks might offset a few TDs but it also makes for a close game in the end.

Bearmeat's picture

I've looked again and again at all the matchups, and my initial opinion hasn't changed one iota. Green Bay is simply the better team, and it's not all that close. The only matchup that favors DET is their passing O vs. our passing D. Everything else is slanted in our favor. Even STs is a wash.

The location is irrelevant. I expect a high scoring GB win. It won't be close if Slay doesn't play. If he does, it'll be close, but GB is simply better. Stafford hasn't thrown for more than 2 TDs in over a month. Even if he throws for 3 against GB, that won't be enough. And who cares about yards?

dobber's picture

If the Packers come out throwing short, they'll be in good shape. The Lions give that up, try to keep everything in front of them, and force their opponents to play long drives. They don't get after the passer with any consistency and they don't take the ball away. If the Packers don't turn the ball over, it will be hard for Detroit to win tomorrow.

Samson's picture

Sorry, but, too many predictions on your part. The last two losses for the Lions have been against the Giants and Cowboys. --- Probably the elite of the NFC in 2016. --They're a combinded 23-7 for the year.----- Who you play means a lot.

dobber's picture

I don't deny that Dallas is the class of the NFC this year, but it's a pretty mediocre NFC.

RobinsonDavis's picture

The Lions killed our secondary over the middle last game, but we were without Shields, Burnett, and at one time in the game both Randall and Rollins. Also, Guion and CM3 were out. I am not saying these guys will be our saviors, but just pointing out that we had lots of rookies and 2nd year guys on the defense playing last game. If I recall correctly, we dropped 2 or 3 sure interceptions as well. Although this will not be a cake-walk, if we can apply pressure, especially up the middle with hands in the side-arm throwing Staffords face, we should win (would love to see Julius or Datone rushing up the middle some today, next to a steady one-two punch of Daniels and Guion). Conversely, if we do not shore-up the defensive center of the field, it could be a long day IMO. The Lions came-up with some innovative routes against the Vikings that caused great confusion when I last watched a full Lion game, but it also was dependent on Stafford having time to throw and routes developing.

Dzehren's picture

Stafford threw for 21 TD's in the first 13 games.
Since the middle finger injury & donning the white glove- Stafford has Thrown for 1 TD in the last 3 games. 1 against Chi- Zero against NYG & Zero against DAL. AROD and OLine will guide GB to post season.

egbertsouse's picture

I think the Packers should win too but cannot forget that this is the defense that made Adam Thielen (Adam who?) look like Jerry Rice.

Hematite's picture

This game could turn into a track meet.
I'm sitting in the "worry chair"!

RobinsonDavis's picture

One side-note: Did anyone see that Kentrell Brice recieved the highest FS rookie rating last week by one scout in bleacher report? It is a short, interesting read. on how he is being used.

DrealynWilliams's picture
RobinsonDavis's picture


Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

The key is forcing Detroit to live by big plays. Press coverage and blitz...anything but allowing long, clock-eating drives.

Our corners are overmatched in this game, so Dom had better not act like they can hold their own with loose coverage and 4-man rushes. They can't. Press-and-blitz will allow several big plays, but at least Stafford won't mow down the field at will.

We have an awful secondary. No point in wishing otherwise.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

On offense, don't bother establishing the run. That wastes downs and puts our QB in all-or-nothing 3rd downs.

Rodgers is white-hot, so eat Detroit alive with a mid-range passing game. 5 to 15 yard strikes all the way, putting a bad defense on its heels. Don't waste too many downs with low % heaves downfield or 2 yard rushes. Let Aaron do what he does best--buy a little time and move the chains with laser shots.

We've got the better team, McCarthy, so don't give Detroit hope it doesn't deserve.

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