Yeah, we know. We know. There's no quit in the Detroit Lions. They're way better than their 2-10 record. The've led at halftime in their last three games and led the Bears in the fourth quarter last week. Nice.
The Packers know all this and will be mindful of the first meeting, when a 28-14 lead turned into a 28-26 nail-biter that required a John Kuhn-led drive to run out the clock. But the truth is, the Packers are by far the more talented, motivated team--not to mention a team with historic success against this franchise. Mike McCarthy is a perfect 9-0 against the Lions and the Pack has won 18 of the last 20 meetings.
Only the Pack and Lions have played every year since '32 but the Lions have never experienced more futility. The Pack's 10-game streak against the Lions is second longest in the league (behind the Patriots' 14 game streak vs. the Bills). They have now lost 19 straight divisional games. Amazing.
Yes, they're on the right track. Rookie Ndamukong Suh gives their defense a nasty element and their defensive line was intimidating--less so now, with the loss of tough guy Kyle Vanden Bosch, who was placed on IR this week. In Calvin Johnson, they have one of the top three receivers in the league and rookie back Jahvid Best looked brilliant, until a toe injury robbed him of his cutting ability.
In this matchup, the Packers face third stringer Drew Stanton at QB. He's a smart dude and can move around a bit. He played well against the Bears defense, with a passer rating of 102. He faces a Packer defense playing without 1 1/2 of its two best pass rushers. Cullen Jenkins is lost for at least the next two weeks with a recurring calf injury, and Clay Matthews has now gone two weeks without a sack for the first time this season. His shin injury is keeping him from practicing, obviously lessening his impact in games.
That said, it's Stanton's fourth career start and Dom Capers will have plenty up his sleeve for the former Spartan star. Expect him to pay extra attention to Johnson, while also trying to slow down emerging playmaker, tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The screen game could be effective against the Pack's aggressive pas rush. The linebackers will need to play well, as they have been lately.
For the Packers, it would be nice to see a quicker start offensively. They allowed the 49ers to hang around for a half and the Lions' spirit could be broken if they get into a deep hole early. There's no reason to believe the Lions will be able to stop Aaron Rodgers, who's on a roll: five straight games without a pick, four straight games with a passer rating of at least 110 (for just the third time in Packer history). He was named the NFL's Player of the Week for his performance over the 49ers.
The Lions have beefed up the front of the defense, but the back seven is average at best. Former Badger DeAndre Levy is a lone bright spot, playing middle linebacker. The other two LBs figure to be replaced next season. The secondary has gotten torched all season and figures to be chasing Packer receivers all afternoon. Jordy Nelson popped up on the injury report on Friday with an ankle, but is probable and expected to play.
The one area of concern is special teams (imagine that), where Stefan Logan is always a threat to take one to the house. I had hoped the Pack might bring him aboard when the Steelers let him go, but the Lions snatched him up. If the Packers control special teams, this game should not be close.
The Pack controls its own destiny. Win out and they're the #2 seed. Win three of four and they're going to be in the playoffs. Anything less than that and their season could end on January 2nd. A win here would solidify tiebreaker scenarios against the Bears and set the Pack up to claim the North if it wins its NFC matchups.
With games against the Patriots, Giants and Bears looming the Packers need to take care of business and take out the Lions with the cool precision of a big game hunter. No slip ups here. Under this regime, the Pack wins December games and plays well on the road. Pack 28 Lions 17.
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