NFL Week 14: Packers-Lions Preview: They’re Focused and Not Lion
The defeated the 49ers by a score of 34-16 to move to 8-4 on the season and remain one game back of the Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers continued his hot streak throwing for 298 yards and 3 TDs and rookie running back James Starks made his much anticipated debut gaining 74 yards on the ground giving the Packers some hope in their lackluster running game.
This week, the Packers head back out on the road to face the 2-10 Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The Lions are coming off a hard fought loss to the Bears, falling by a score of 24-20.
As easy as it has been to overlook the Detroit Lions the last few years, they can’t be ignored any longer. This is a big trap game for the Green Bay Packers and from what they’ve told local media, they know it too.
Breaking down the Lions
Sam Shields summed up the Lions perfectly this week when he said “2-10 record….10-2 talent.” Indeed, these are no longer the Matt Millen Lions.
Despite the poor record, the Lions have been competitive in nearly every game they have played in including a near-win over the Packers at Lambeau Field earlier this season. Throw in the fact they’ve done this without quarterback Matthew Stafford and it makes it all the more impressive.
With Stafford still out and second stringer Shaun Hill now injured with a broken finger, the Lions will start Drew Stanton this Sunday. Stanton is a bigger quarterback than Hill and with weapons like Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson at his disposal, he shouldn’t feel like he has to put the whole game on his shoulders.
Johnson and Burleson are big receivers who aren’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch and can also make plays with their legs. The Packers secondary, especially if they are without Charles Woodson, will face a challenge with those two.
With Jahvid Best nursing a turf toe injury, the Lions rushing attack will likely be a non-factor. Kevin Smith could get the bulk of carries, but he isn’t anywhere bear the explosive player Best is.
On defense for the Lions, it’s all about Ndamukong Suh. The rookie out of Nebraska is going to be a dominant player for a long time and the Packers have to face him twice a year. With incredible speed for someone his size, Suh continues to improve each week and has been able to not only get after the quarterback but CHASE the quarterback as he did with Jay Cutler last week.
When the Packers have the ball….
Could the Packers have finally discovered a rushing attack?
OK maybe that’s too much to put on Starks’ shoulders but after a promising game against the 49ers, he faces a much more difficult task against a Lions defense anchored by Suh.
That said, Air McCarthy will take to the skies again this week. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? With Rodgers playing out of his mind, McCarthy would be insane to take the ball out of Rodgers’ hands.
With a weak Detroit secondary, look for Rodgers and Greg Jennings to continue their game of pitch and catch for another week while a bigger challenge awaits next week.
Detroit has to get pressure on Rodgers but with defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch on injured reserve, Suh won’t be able to do it alone especially with Rodgers’ scrambling ability.
When the Lions have the ball….
With Stanton still establishing chemistry with his receivers, the Packers must do one thing to shut down the Lions’ offense: jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage. Knocking them off their routes will be enough to confuse Stanton and with just enough pressure could force him into some turnovers.
Detroit will try and run early despite Best’s injury but likely won’t see much success against the Packers defensive line.
Three keys to the game
1. Woodson or Shields?
Even if he starts, will Woodson be able to go the full game? If not, how will Sam Shields perform in his place?
If Shields is on the field, the Lions will attack him over and over again. With Tramon Williams likely to take Johnson, Shields will be defening against Burleson who is no picnic either.
How fast Shields grows up if Woodson is limitied or even out will be key for the Packers to win the game.
2. Avoid the trap
Admiral Ackbar would be yelling “IT’S A TRAP!” to the Packers about this week’s game.
With memories of last year’s debacle in Tampa Bay still fresh in fans’ minds, one has to worry about the Packers looking past the Lions and towards next week’s game against the Patriots.
The players and coaches have said all the right things this week, but all that disappears come game time.
The Lions have been in nearly every game this year. A few more breaks and we could be talking about a three team race atop the NFC North.
Do not overlook this time. It can’t be stressed enough.
3. Oh, those Packer special teams…..
Thanks to some blunders on special teams last week against the 49ers, the Packers had to keep going full throttle in a game that should have been a bigger blowout than it was.
Allowing the opposing offense to start midfield almost every drive is unacceptable and McCarthy has said so himself. The Packers must improve kickoff and punt coverage if they want to make any kin of run in the playoffs.
Cutting back on dumb penalties is essential as well. Shawn Slocum must know he is coaching for his job every week so his squad has got to be ready to go from here on out.
Packers 27, Detroit 10
With the Bears facing a tough game against the Patriots, this is a golden opportunity for the Packers to pull even in the NFC North. The Packers should maintain their focus throughout this game even if they do get off to another slow start like they did against San Francisco.
With a win here, the Packers would clinch their first back-to-back winning seasons since Ted Thompson became general manager.
It’s not a Super Bowl, but we can scratch one more thing off list some fans use to hate on Ted Thompson.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke