Saturday, December 11, 2010

Packers vs. Lions Preview

As a blizzard is set to hit Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are set to hit the Lions in Detroit. The Pack took to the air in time to beat the snowstorm. Still, a few players will not be on the field Sunday when gametime arrives. Key among them from the Packers' standpoint is DE Cullen Jenkins; he strained a calf muscle in last weekend's game vs. the 49ers. Trying to fill that sizable void on the D-line will be C. J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn. It's possible Howard Green might also be moved around in the rotation as well with B. J. Raji and Ryan Pickett.

But it's not the running game that is of primary concern from a defensive standpoint. It's the passing game of the Lions. And even though their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is still sidelined, the backup to the backup, Drew Stanton, is a serviceable QB. Kinda like Jay Cutler...on a good day. (Ouch!) More importantly, whoever is tossing the ball in Motor City has WR Calvin Johnson on his side. His size and speed make him the Lions' main offensive weapon. But he's not the only one. TE Brandon Pettigrew benefits from Johnson opening things up. He's a big tight end, although not fast. Since linebackers A. J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop will likely wind up covering him, he may get some opportunities. But he should be able to be kept in check.

While a few Packers won't be on the field this time around, there was at least some good news going into the game: it appears that LT Chad Clifton is cleared to play, and the ankle sprain sustained during practice this week by Charles Woodson was not as serious as initially suspected; he'll also likely be good to go's a game in Michigan, right? Woodson won't miss that one!

The Packers are 10-4 in dome games under head coach Mike McCarthy. Is it surprising? The Packers offense is geared to the air game. And there's no better place to air out the ball, especially in December, than inside. I know, I know, that's almost heresy in Packerland. But given perfect conditions in which to throw the ball, guess what's going to happen? The Packers are going to light up the Lions, particularly given the sorry state of Detroit's secondary. QB Aaron Rodgers will have a big day, as will his receiving corps. Toss in a seemingly resurgent (yes, for the Packers that does mean just one game) running game with rookie James Starks and the Pack will be far more than the Lions can handle, even if they do happen to make it a game for a while.

Coach McCarthy, if memory serves, is 9-0 against the Lions. Sunday will make it 10-0. Despite the final score of the first meeting this season, most games aren't that close. The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points. They'll take care of that going away.

What's my prediction on the final score? You'll have to check back Sunday morning for that. Barring a blizzard-born power outage, you'll get my call then.

For now...Go Pack Go!!!

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