Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week 3: Packers vs. Lions Preview & Prediction

Today, the Green Bay Packers begin a stretch of games in which they will play half of their division schedule in about 11 days: Detroit Lions today, Chicago Bears next Sunday, and the Minnesota ViQueens the following Thursday evening. Only the last is a home game. It's a tough and critical stretch. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!)

At 1-1, and with the first of these three divisional games on the schedule today, the Packers need to return home with a victory in Detroit. Despite the Lions being 2 to 2-1/2-point favorites -- home field advantage factor -- the Packers should win this game. Not that it probably won't be a shoot out (don't you hate double negatives in a sentence?). There are two good quarterbacks -- one better than the other, certainly -- who can put up points quickly and often if allowed to do so. One is also more prone to making bonehead throws. We'll let you figure out which is which between Lions QB Matthew Stafford and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. (Calling Captain Obvious, calling Captain Obvious...)

The Lions have a very fine defensive front which will likely make it difficult for the Packers to get a running game going today. That's something they haven't yet been able to do well this season, and it's unlikely RB Eddie Lacey, James Starks or DuJuan Harris will see much running room today. But Rodgers should have a big day passing as the Lions' secondary has injuries and was questionable to begin with.

On offense, the Lions have Calvin Johnson. He'll be working on the much smaller Sam Shields probably for most of the day. It will be a challenge for the Packers, as it is for every team, trying to defend Johnson. He'll score, certainly. The trick is not to let him score a lot. If the Pack can get a pass rush on Stafford, he will make bad throws into coverage. That will be the key on that side of the ball.

For the Packers, just taking a look at this infographic (courtesy of State Farm) should give you, dear reader, a clue as to how things should go...
With a win today, the Packers will have attained 700 wins in franchise history, joining Da Bearz as the only teams in the NFL to have ever reached this milestone. (Da Bearz?! How'd they get in there...?)

Rodgers is also 9-1 in games against the Lions. As the stats in the graphic indicate, he always seems to do well. We should expect another similar performance from Rodgers today. WR Jordy Nelson and the other receivers should have a big day going against the Lions secondary.

At the time of this writing, however, it's not yet clear whether RT Bryan Bulaga will start or we'll be relying on Derek Sherrod once again. That could be a big factor in the game. Last week, the Packers had to keep a tight end in to help Sherrod block, which effectively took away that threat in the passing game. Whether Bulaga plays or not is viewed here as more of a factor than rookie center Corey Linsley going against Ndamukong Suh. That won't be a cake-walk either, but Sherrod is certainly not a tackle you want to rely on for very long, especially without help.

Without further ado (or needless blathering on about this or can find enough of that as it is), today's prediction is: Packers 27 - Lions 24.

We hope it's not that close. The score for the Packers could well be more than 30 points. But if the Pack's defense is able to keep the Lions to 24 points or less -- as we expect -- the Packers will come away with a "W."

Go Pack Go!!!