4

October

Packers Periscope: Eyeing the Enemy (Lions)

The bye has come and gone already, which means the Green Bay Packers have to gear up for a brutal 13-game stretch to close out the regular season.

The Packers needed the off week to regroup from the team’s deflating 34-30 loss in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals as well as to get key players healthy.

Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, James Starks and Jermichael Finley missed either the entire game or a decent amount of it with an injury.  Matthews is saying he is ready to go and both Lacy and Finley have been cleared to play coming off of concussions.  Starks has already been ruled out.

They’re coming back at the perfect time for the Packers as game one of this marathon finish is Green Bay’s first NFC North opponent of the year, the Detroit Lions.   Last week, the Lions defeated the previously undefeated Chicago Bears 40-32 at Ford Field to move to 3-1 which gives them the tiebreaker (for now) over Chicago for first place in the NFC North.

The last time we met

The Packers defeated the Lions for the 22nd consecutive time at Lambeau Field last December, winning the game 27-20.   The game was tied going into the fourth quarter but the Packers were able to pull away putting the team one win away from an eventual NFC North title.

Aaron Rodgers threw for only 170 yards and his sole touchdown of the game was on the ground (and his career long of 27 yards), but Green Bay got some (literally) big help from its defense after defensive end Mike Daniels scooped up a Matthew Stafford fumble and then ran more than half the length of the field giving the Packers an early 14-0 lead that Detroit never recovered from.

Calvin Johnson chewed up the Green Bay defense for 110 yards but was kept out of the end zone and Matthew Stafford threw for 264 yards. It was a classic “bend but don’t break” game for the Packers defense as they forced the fumble from Stafford as well as an interception.

This week in Detroit

The Packers obviously know Detroit well, but this a much different and arguably much better Lions team than the one Green Bay swept last season.

31

December

Packers vs. Lions Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Packers QB Matt Flynn has a perfect stage in Week 17 for his looming free agent status.

The Green Bay Packers (14-1) and Detroit Lions (10-5) face off in Week 17 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 12:00 CST, Sunday, January 1, 2012.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick with the call, Laura Okmin on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Packers lead, 92-65-7 (Packers won last regular season game, 27-17, on Nov. 24, 2011 at Ford Field.)

Five things to watch

1. Money to be made

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that he wants all three quarterbacks to play on Sunday, but the middle man in the group has a golden opportunity to bump up his price tag this summer. Matt Flynn, the Packers backup quarterback and a free agent after the season, will likely see the majority of the snaps against the Lions. Another solid performance on the big stage may propel a quarterback-needy team to give Flynn the opportunity to start for their franchise—and the money that goes with it—next season.

2. Who needs receivers?

The Packers offense may be one of the most receiver-dependent outfits in the NFL, but they’ll be down two at that position on Sunday. Both Greg Jennings (knee) and Randall Cobb (groin) were ruled out this week by McCarthy. Their absence should mean an increase in snaps for the Packers’ four tight ends, and more specifically, rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.  Expect the two first-year players to log career highs in snaps and receptions on Sunday.

3. Clifton’s return

Packers left tackle Chad Clifton has played in some big games during his career, but Sunday’s tilt with the Lions might rank near the top. While the game alone has little overall meaning, how Clifton performs may influence whether or not he can play again in the NFL. The Packers get one chance to see him live before the playoffs begin, and if they don’t like what they see from him, McCarthy may have to go with with Marshall Newhouse as his starting left tackle in the postseason. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if Clifton wasn’t the same guy he was before the torn hamstring, as he’s 35 years old and in his 12th season in the NFL. A dud of a performance or set back with the injury could signal the end of Clifton’s NFL career.

24

November

Packers vs. Lions: 10 Quick Things to Watch, Score Prediction

The Green Bay Packers (10-0) travel to Detroit to take on the Lions (7-3) Thursday. The following 10 are things you should watch during the first Thanksgiving contest between the two teams since 2007:

1. Right side of the offensive line

A lot of the talk on Thursday will be about right guard Josh Sitton and his ability to keep Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh out of the Packers backfield. While that is obviously an important matchup, don’t forget about right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He had his worst game as a professional last December in Detroit, allowing two sacks, one quarterback hit and four pressures. Bulaga needs to play better against the Lions’ edge rushers on Thursday.

2.  Stay disciplined

The Lions have gained a reputation as a “dirty” team this season, and Suh—the leader of bunch—has already ran his confident mouth this week. The Packers have done well in 2011 to avoid lowering themselves to such tactics (see: Atlanta Falcons week). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Lions didn’t try to get under the Packers skin on Thursday. All 46 of the men on the gameday roster need to keep their heads in a tough atmosphere.

3. Kevin Smith’s resurgence

Lions running back Kevin Smith was sitting at home without an NFL job two weeks ago, but he burst back onto the scene with 201 total yards and three scores against the Carolina Panthers last week. The Packers have been susceptible against both the run and running backs catching the ball out of the backfield this season. They need to make sure Smith isn’t the guy who beats them on Thursday with his legs.

4. Availability of James Starks

The Packers have officially listed Starks as questionable for Thursday, which gives him a decent chance of playing against the Lions. You’d think the Packers would need him, too. Not only is he a physical presence running the football, but he’s also improved leaps and bounds in pass protection. Not having him available, and potentially having to lean on rookie Brandon Saine in spots, could leave the Packers vulnerable.

5. Megatron engaged

11

December

NFL Week 14: Packers-Lions Preview: They’re Focused and Not Lion

As the Green Bay Packers prepare for the Detroit Lions, lets take a quick look back at last week.

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.

2

October

Packers-Lions Preview: 2010 NFL Week 4: Packers Looking to Recapture their Swagger

Oy.

That single word sums up the feelings of the entire fandom of the Green Bay Packers following their sickening loss to the Chicago Bears this past Monday, dropping their record to 2-1 and placing them one game behind the first place Bears.

To sum up that game in a word: penalties. Make that two words: stupid penalties. OK, three words: really stupid penalties. The 18 infractions by the Packers tied a team record that was set back in 1945. There is little to no doubt that those penalties cost the Packers the game including two that nullified Jay Cutler interceptions.

Moving right along, the Packers face the Detroit Lions at home this Sunday in a game in which the Packers must recover their swagger in order to keep their  Super Bowl aspirations alive. A win, preferably a resounding one, and the Pack is back on track. A loss however, and the season will come off the rails. The Packers have not lost to the Lions at Lambeau in 20 years and a loss now would blow up the season.

How the Packers respond to the loss to the Bears will dictate this game and possibly the rest of the season.

Breaking down the Lions

Don’t let the 0-3 record fool you, folks. The Lions are much better than last year and could be a year away from challenging for the division title.

With starter Matthew Stafford out, Shaun Hill once again gets the start for the Lions. Despite not having anything near as strong an arm as Stafford, the Lions offense has been able to keep on trucking while Stafford’s shoulder heals.

Hill is complemented by a stellar receiving corps led by Calvin Johnson. As Detroit’s version of Jermichael Finley, he can give defensive backs fits with his size, speed, and seemingly inhuman vertical leap to grab balls. He will undoubtedly provide Charles Woodson a challenge, who faces a distinct disadvantage in the size department.

The biggest potential for explosive plays on the offense comes surprisingly from rookie running back Jahvid Best. A threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball, he will provide the Packers linebacking corps a solid challenge and another dual threat for the second week in a row after facing the Bears’ Matt Forte. best has been fighting a turf toe injury, but is expected to play in what will be a game day decision.