The Past: While the Lions are still sort of the trailer trash of the NFL; they are a talented team that many thought could be very successful if they ever got out of their own way. 2014 was finally the year that the Lions sort of just let their talent win games and overall, the team has done well. In week 3 the Packers travelled to Detroit and suffered in my own opinion their first crushing loss (Not many people thought the Packers would do well against the Seahawks and teams usually have trouble in the “Super Bowl Champion” return game).
While Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense wasn’t particularly bad, they definitely left points and yards on the field, especially in the running game where James Starks surprising out-touched Eddie Lacy, who was off to a slow start on the season; combined the running backs carried the ball 22 times for 76 yards, with Lacy getting a paltry 11 carries for 36 yards. The Packers didn’t get much better through the air with the Lions limited Nelson and Cobb to 59 and 29 yards while Andrew Quarless surprisingly added another 43 yards and a touchdown.
While the Packers offense certainly didn’t win the game, the defense basically carried the team; limiting quarterback Matthew Stafford to a 61 QB rating with 2 interceptions and Megatron to 82 yards, however where the Packers really struggled was with the running game, which would be a theme through the rest of the season. At the end of the day, the Packers didn’t do enough while the Lions did just enough to get the win.
The Present: Since the last time the Packers and Lions met, both teams have found their identities and what their strength and weaknesses are; the Packers boast the best offense in the league (2nd in passing and 5th in rushing) while the Lions boast the best defense in the league (5th against the pass, 1st against the run). Needless to say, the unit that wins when the Packers offense and the Lions defense is on the field will likely determine the game.
On offense, the Packers probably can’t expect to see much out of Eddie Lacy and the running game, the Lions are best against the run by a sizable margin according to football outsiders, Lacy probably will do a lot better than his 36 yards in the last meeting but expect to see more production in the screen game and the short passes rather than just head on pounding the ball. On the other hand, the offensive line has definitely become on of the more dominant units in the league (7th according to Football Outsiders) and Eddie Lacy has worked his way back into rookie of the year form.
Where the Packers will likely get most production will be in the passing game, where if the Packers can keep Rodgers upright, he can expose a still suspect secondary. A lot of Rodgers production in turn will fall on the health of his legs, which he suffered a pull calf. As has been mentioned in the past, Rodgers “re-learned” the quarterback position while sitting behind Brett Favre and one of the most pronounced things he changed was generating power from his legs. Rodgers was uncharacteristically inaccurate against the Bucs and this was in part due to the fact that he couldn’t plant and torque as effectively with his gimpy leg, not to mention the fact that Mike McCarthy had to scrap some of the play calling to help his quarterback out.
On defense, the Packers have the ability to completely stymie the Lions offense like they did before, or the Lions could go off with some offensive fireworks. While Calvin Johnson hasn’t had as stellar of a season as most are accustomed to, he’s still a dangerous threat and will likely command double teams from the Packers defense. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell aren’t superstar running backs, but definitely good enough to get the job done . The biggest advantage the Packers might have this game is the fact that the Lions are still the Lions and Dominic Raiola stomped on Bears defensive linemen Ego Ferguson and then tried to pass it off as an accident (news flash: Ndamukong Suh had the same alibi and it didn’t work either). Undrafted rookie Ravis Swanson will start in a hostile environment against a team known for exotic blitzes and double A-gap blitzes, needless to say the Packers front 7 will be picking on Swanson from the start.
The Future: While both the Packers and Lions have both clinched playoff berths, a lot more than just pride, or the NFC crown is at stake. The winner at Lambeau more likely than not manages to secure the 2nd seed and a much needed bye but also gets to play the majority of games at home. The loser on the other hand likely drops to 6th and will have to go through the Cowboys and likely the Seahawks at home. Simply put the Packers will have a much better chance to get to the Super Bowl if they win this game, that’s it.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.