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Opposition Research: Detroit Lions (W12)

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Opposition Research: Detroit Lions (W12)

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.

Coming into this game, the Lions are…awfully proud of the grit shown by their #1 overall pick, QB Matthew Stafford. Many other players were impressed, and Kevin Smith summed it up nicely:

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):

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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

the guy across the hall's picture

I smell win #3! A thanksgiving special!

holly's picture

Thanks for that, Mr. 49ers-fan-but-since-they-lost-I'll-cheer-for-whoever-plays-the-Packers.

PACKERS's picture

I'm still trying to remember the last time the Pack lost this game. However, missing Al Harris is going to be a serious problem, but on second thought, Detroit needs to have a QB first.

In short, I'll be waiting for A-Rod to take the Galloping Gobbler away from Brett ("I guess winning it is better than not winning it.) Favre.

PACKERS's picture

By the way, getting your third win of the season in late November is nothing to be proud of.

PackersRS's picture

The last time the Lions also had confidence in them, after coming from that record ending victory over the Redskins. They also didn't have Stafford, and this time Megatron might not play, as well (though he's probable, I think). They're at home, but we're a better team than what we were back then, specially on offense.

PACKERS's picture

Excellent point. Without Stafford, they will really struggle on offense. You have to cheer for the kid though- coming back in like that to win it for his team even though he was hurt. Proud to have a player like that in the division.

Ruppert's picture

Anothre nice piece, Holly. It had to be difficult to rephrase "We're just better than them, period" into a couple hundred words.
And I just couldn't resist watching the whole Kiss video.

holly's picture

Careful there, Ruppert. We were "just better than them, period" a couple weeks ago against the Bucs, too.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Good stuff as usual, Holly.

PACKERS's picture

I wonder how long we will be living with Beat By The Bucs syndrome, which appears to be characterized by extreme paranoia as well as the inability to make definite conclusions as to the awesomeness of the Pack ;)

Okay, I'll stop commenting now. I just can't seem to keep my mouth shut today.

holly's picture

"Characterized by extreme paranoia" sounds about right. I can't speak for the general populace, but I'll stop flinching at shadows when:
1) we have a solid option at nickel/dime not named "Jarrett Bush";
2) I can stop waiting for holding flags after solid runs; and
3) press conferences are devoid of the phrases "pad level," "we'll get that cleaned up," and "it's about fundamentals."
As those things are likely to remain through the end of 2009, you can bet that my blood pressure will continue to rise whenever there's time on the clock --- even if the Packers are up 3 scores.

Cuphound's picture

Actually, us flinching at items 1-4 <I>doesn't</I> constitute paranoia. The flinch comes from the very real items 1-4. It would only be paranoia if our beloved Packers were kicking ass and taking names right now and then we were upset by a surprise loss.
I think Holly's right. If we feel safe again soon, it's because of changes that happen in the offseason. Still, we WON last week and the week before BEAT A REAL TEAM. And we beat the Bears. We can't forget that we beat the Bears.
There is room for cautious, if conservative optimism.

Cuphound's picture

Er, my bad. Items 1-3. So maybe I am paranoid. Sue me.

PACKERS's picture

Just like the your research, that summed everything up perfectly. All those problems are rooted in the coaching and the management. Even if we make the playoffs this year, it will be over for Mike and Ted. In my mind nothing can save them now. They got us into this mess. The least the can do is get us out. (yeah, I know I said I'd stop commenting, but I get a little carried away when it comes to the Pack)

Momrat3's picture

"Any given Sunday" shouldn't apply to this game. Get in there, get the job done, and it should be over by halftime. IF they want to be serious contenders...

PackersRS's picture

People, there's no paranoia. If we lose to the Lions, we're just too mentally instable. A very good team is supposed to have one surprising loss during season. Unless you're willing to say that the defending SB champs (KC), NFC champion (SF at home) and NFC runner up (OAK) aren't good teams.
It happens once a season. Twice, it doesn't. If it happens twice, then the team is just not very good...

PACKERS's picture

I agree. How often do teams go undefeated on a season. I think it's about twice in the last forty or so years. Dolphins and Patriots right? I've just noticed tht the general mood of Packers fans is somewhat apocalyptic whenever they lose one game. I admit I've gotten caught up in it as well, but we've got to be able to get past that as a fan base.

GoPackGo's picture

Hey Holly - how do you think Havner's chances are of getting some action in the game today?

holly's picture

GoPackGo - as good as anyone's since our QB loves to spread the ball around, but with DLee still catching pivotal 3rd downs and Finley back healthy, I don't see Havner doing much beyond blocking and maybe a catch or two. He has more ST value than either of the other TEs.

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