After two up and down weeks of action, the Detroit Lions play host to their old division rival, the Green Bay Packers. Both teams have told nearly the same story so far this season with large and electrifying wins against average-at-best teams next to poor losses to good NFC playoff contending opponents.
For the Lions, they enter the game as thorough underdogs and are aware that last year’s Thanksgiving drubbing of the Packers had most to do with QB Aaron Rodgers’ absence. But with or without Rodgers, this week’s matchup is at least intriguing on paper. Rodgers –who to many experts is still the best quarterback in the NFL- looked pitiful against Seattle in Week 1 and didn’t really become a threat until late in the second quarter last week against the Jets. The net result is that Green Bay’s passing game is currently only ranked 13th in the NFL, averaging 242.5 yards per contest. Additionally, the Packers’ rushing game is far more shameful and has been stifled by RB Eddie Lacy’s nasty string of minor injuries; they rank 26th on the ground this year.
The numbers create a favorable scenario for the Lions, who are 9th against the pass with just 197.5 yards on average conceded per game. And while Green Bay’s rush game is awful, Detroit currently enjoys being ranked 2nd against the rush, allowing just 57.5 yards per game on average in that facet. Granted neither of the Lions’ first two opponents have the same weapons that Green Bay has, nor are Eli Manning and Cam Newton even universes close to Aaron Rodgers, but the Lions might have just enough to keep the game interesting.
For Detroit, the front seven will be essential to keep Aaron Rodgers under pressure in order to manage the threat of Green Bay WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. But for the Lions to go from simply competing in this game to actually winning, the key will be offense. Detroit’s passing offense is currently 4th in the league with just under 300 yards per game. On paper Green Bay has the ability to counteract Detroit’s passing game, being ranked 6th in pass defense, but the Packers simply haven’t yet faced a team with as many weapons as Detroit has.
The reason this game is so intriguing is that both Detroit and Green Bay have virtually the same DNA at the moment. Both teams have top ranked defenses and have been strong against the passing game. Yet at the same time, neither defense has faced the sort of offensive talent they will face tomorrow between the ability of Aaron Rodgers and the physicality of the Lions’ weapons. And of course both teams are historic NFL rivals in a division loaded with offensive talent, all vying to create an early season advantage in the NFC North.
Date: Sunday, September 21st
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Stadium: Ford Field (64,500 capacity)
Television Broadcasting Team: Kevin Burkhardt (Play-By-Play); John Lynch (Color); Pam Oliver (Sideline)
Detroit Radio: 97.1 The Ticket WXYT-FM
Radio Broadcasting Team: Dan Miller (Play-By-Play); Jim Brandstatter (Color); Tony Ortiz (Sideline)
Injuries have already become a pesky nuisance for Detroit this season and could very well affect this game as well. Headlining the list this week are RT LaAdrian Waddle (calf), CB Cassius Vaughn (ankle), and LB Travis Lewis (quad), who have already been ruled out. Once again, Waddle’s absence from the offensive line will be lamentable for Detroit. The news is particularly uncomforting for QB Matthew Stafford, who was under duress all last week against Carolina and sacked four times; he now faces LB dual threat Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers who are both well familiar with Stafford over the years.
Elsewhere on the injury front, FB Montell Owens (hamstring) and S James Ihedigbo (neck) are listed as doubtful. The likely absence of both Vaughn and Ihedigbo –who were going to make up half of Detroit’s starting secondary this week- will undoubtedly put pressure on the Lions’ defensive rush to keep Rodgers on his back. That added responsibility could be a moot effort if DE Ziggy Ansah (knee), DT Nick Fairley (biceps), and DT George Johnson (groin) cannot collectively find the field on Sunday; all three are currently questionable to even play.
The defensive injury epidemic will no doubt create extra pressure on Stafford, who has historically been very inconsistent against the Packers. Green Bay’s secondary is led by CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams who are both second tier secondary players at best and both struggle against big, physical receivers. That news is good for Stafford who is 3rd in passing yards, 6th in completions, 7th in QB rating, and 3rd in first half passing yards across the NFL this season. But it is also good for Stafford simply because Williams and Shields are not built to cover WR Calvin Johnson, who has 247 yards (second only to Green Bay’s WR Jordy Nelson) off 13 receptions for a 19 yard average. Add in WR Golden Tate, the versatility of RB Reggie Bush and a trio of big, talented TEs and the Lions have the potential to give the Packers’ defense a workout of a lifetime.
The Lions and Packers are some of the most well acquainted teams in the NFL, with a rivalry going back to the Lions’ inception in 1934. Tomorrow will mark not only the 168th meeting between the two, but also a marquee opportunity for Detroit to create an actual winning streak against their hated rival.
Detroit vs. Green Bay Regular Season Record: 66-94-7
Last Meeting: 11/28/2013; Detroit 40 – Green Bay 10 in Detroit
Record in Detroit: 42-39-3
Record in Milwaukee and Green Bay: 24-56-4
Other Game Notes
The Lions announced yesterday that there are additional tickets available for the contest. According to the Lions’ Media Relations Office, the Packers have returned several hundred tickets from their own allotment for the game. Tickets are only available via Detroitlions.com/tickets or by calling 877-212-8898.
Due to construction in Detroit currently, traffic delay has also been a major topic this week. Again from the Lions’ Media Relations Office, the construction of I-75 (Fisher Freeway) between I-375 and M-10 has been postponed.
Ultimately the Lions and their fan base are aware that this game will be a challenge; admittedly they also know that they are distinct underdogs. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between playing the Packers in Detroit opposed to Green Bay and if anything history is slightly more on the Lions’ side at home. While the outcome of this game remains to be seen, there is a lot of parallel between these two teams so far this season which if anything will make for an exciting battle come Sunday.