The Scoop is back and it’s time for some last minute thoughts on tomorrow’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Moving forward, I intend for this to be a narrative on my thoughts about the game and what it means for the Packers and less about any news or updates. Our team of writers have already created some great pieces that will cover those areas leading up to each game.
This game is the first divisional game for the Packers and also a big road game. Regardless of how either team has fared during a particular season, this matchup always seems to bring about a more competitive game when in Detroit. Last season was an obvious exception, as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out with the broken collarbone. In fact, the Packers have never lost a game to the Lions that Rodgers started and finished.
After bouncing back from a rough loss to the Seattle Seahawks in week one, the Packers find themselves 1-1 and still needing to determine who they are in 2014. There is still time for that to be defined and this is hardly a “make or break” scenario for Green Bay. Still, divisional games are valuable and often become key in determining playoff matchups and seeding later on.
That this contest is in Detroit offers the Packers a big opportunity to build some momentum and gain a huge boost of confidence. Both would be ideal as the Packers face the Chicago Bears in Chicago in week four. Ideally, the Packers can win both and take hold of the top spot in the NFC North. Realistically, a split still leaves Green Bay in good shape moving forward.
The first quarter of this season looked to be the toughest, on paper. Three tough road games against key NFC opponents. To come out of that scenario 2-2 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If the Packers can somehow pull off a 3-1 mark, they can re-enter the discussion about being a formidable NFC contender.
As of Friday night, we know that linebacker Brad Jones won’t suit up and we’ll see more of Jamari Lattimore in his place. Linebacker Andy Mulumba suffered a torn ACL last week and will likely miss the rest of this season. Expect undrafted rookie Jayrone Elliott to be activated this week. Offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga is listed as questionable and all signs seem to point towards the Packers resting him again this week. Derek Sherrod will again man the right side of the line in Bulaga’s absence. Cornerback Casey Hayward is also listed as questionable with a hamstring issue. What else is new? Since his stellar rookie season in 2012, Hayward hasn’t made so much as a cameo on defense due to injuries. Davon House will assume the third cornerback role again this week and had a few pass breakups against the New York Jets last week. Safety Micah Hyde wasn’t listed on the injury report and will play. Rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson was not listed on the injury report, but may still be inactive in this game, depending on how the Packers choose to stack their game day roster.
For the Lions, defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah and Nick Fairley were both listed as questionable. For either not to be available would be a big loss for the Lions. If both are out, the Packers are suddenly looking at some more options on offense with the Lions front down two big contributors. This would also significantly ease the load on Sherrod, who has struggled during his few appearances on turf during the preseason and in week one.
Last week, the Packers defense stepped up and held its ground during the second half while the offense mounted a major league comeback. Can the defense continue its play-making ways this week? Historically, the Packers have had to take the ball away to get a win in Detroit. They’ll face the daunting task of keeping Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in check. Johnson has racked up some nice numbers over the last four games against Green Bay. Johnson has three total touchdown catches and at least 100 yards in each of those contests. With Golden Tate on the other side, the Packers defense needs an answer to Johnson if they can’t roll their coverage towards him all day. The best solution would be an effective pass rush and little time for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw.
This game is an early fork in the road for the Packers. Win and they’re back in most everyone’s good graces and back on track to meeting many preseason expectations. Lose and they leave Detroit with more questions than answers and with another tough divisional road game looming. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has to have this team prepared. Any excuse of his not holding up that end of the bargain afterwards will not be acceptable. While one of the easiest debates to start is questioning a coach’s play calling, McCarthy hopefully comes into Detroit with his head on straight. Simply remembering who his quarterback is and some of the fundamental ways that an offense can exploit certain defensive looks would be a start. Would anyone else like to see a nicely executed screen to Eddie Lacy if the Lions are sitting a cover-2 shell? That’s just one example of something that is known to work and if I know it, McCarthy should have a handful of other ideas I never thought of. The question is: will he?
It won’t be hard for the Packers to improve upon their last performance in Detroit, a 40-10 loss on Thanksgiving Day last year. A slow start, however, could spell a hole that, this time, they may not be able to climb out of. The Lions are one-point favorites in this one and the home team typically gets two-and-a-half points to begin with. Expect another closely fought game that is decided late by a big play or a turnover.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: