Thursday, November 28, 2013

Week 13: Packers vs Lions in Thanksgiving Day Battle

In one of the long-running traditions of football and Thanksgiving, the Green Bay Packers meet the Detroit Lions today in Detroit as the first of the games in the NFL's Turkey Day triple header.

The Packers haven't won a game in a month, losing three straight and then having to settle for a rare overtime tie against the lowly Minnesota Vikings last week at Lambeau Field. How low can you go? I think we'll find out today, Packer fans.

With twelve players now placed on the injured reserve list -- the latest, RB Johnathan Franklin, who sustained a concussion on the opening kickoff of Sunday's game -- and other players sidelined due to various injuries including, foremost, QB Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are literally in a world of hurt going into this game.

Still, even with the last month of disasters behind them, the Packers are just a half-game out of first place in the NFC North. Detroit has lost two in a row. The Bears have been inconsistent without Jay Cutler. If the Pack wins today, they would actually be in first place atop the division. It's that kind of season: goofy.

The route to the playoffs for the Packers (or the Lions or Bears), given the record and the likely wild card teams, is to win the division. That's it. So, today's game is a must-win game for both the Packers and the Lions.

Which team is in a better position to win this must-win game?
Pundits are taking the Lions by 6 points over the Packers. That actually sounds about right. The Lions are at home, they have their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and one of the best receivers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson. They have WR Nate Burleson and RB Reggie Bush; some good offensive weapons, in other words. They have a nasty defensive line, as Packers' LG Josh Sitton informed the universe on a radio interview a few days ago...although I'm toning down his exact words.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Packers have a new starting backup quarterback this week, Matt Flynn, who had a career day against this very Lions team a couple years back that made him millions of dollars: 480 yards passing and 6 touchdowns. After stops in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo (?), Flynn is back in Green Bay. After Scott Tolzien failed to take full advantage of his two opportunities in relief of Aaron Rodgers, Flynn, who just rejoined the team within the past few weeks, gets the start as a result of his rallying the Packers last weekend. Whether he can reprise his prior miracle game today or not remains to be seen. If he does, it will be Miracle in Detroit Part 2.

Expect the Packers to use as heavy a dose of running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks as they can. What Flynn will or won't be able to do with his receivers today...who knows? The Detroit secondary can be had, assuming Flynn has time. That will be determined by the offensive line giving him time. The trenches is where this game will likely be won or lost.

That goes for the defensive side of things, as well. The Pack's defense has been a sieve during this losing streak. They need to get pressure on Stafford and if they do, turnovers can be had. But they will need to keep Reggie Bush from causing problems out of the backfield and will somehow have to find a way to keep Calvin Johnson in check. Not going to be easy. Unless the Packers are sound in their fundamentals. You know, things like tackling.

The prediction
I really want to believe the Packers will win this game, Packer fans. I've picked them in each of the prior weeks during this losing streak...going with my heart over my head. So this week, I just have to look at how it is. And from what we have seen, and what we are looking at, it doesn't look good today for the Green 'n' Gold. Can the Pack win this game today? Of course, if they play the way they are capable of playing. Knowing that their season is literally on the line today may finally shake this team out of the lethargy it's been in since Rodgers has been down.

But I still think it just might be too much to ask at this point.

I'm calling this one: Lions 27 - Packers 20. But I hope I'm wrong. I really, really, really, really hope I'm wrong.

Go Pack Go!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!