By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – One of football’s oldest rivalries will resume in the
Motor City with the Detroit Lions trying to figure out a way to become
competitive against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Detroit was able to rout the Pack by a 40-10 margin on Thanksgiving Day of
last year but that was with the All-Pro Rodgers on the sidelines with a broken
collarbone. Overall Green Bay has won 15 of its last 17 against the Lions and
A-Rod is a gaudy 9-1 with 19 TDs against just four interceptions in his career
After opening the season with an ugly setback to the reigning Super Bowl
champion Seahawks, the Packers were able to bounce back last week when Rodgers
threw two touchdown passes in the second half as Green Bay rallied from a poor
start to take a 31-24 win over the New York Jets.
Rodgers finished the game 25-for-42 for 346 yards with three scores for the
Packers. Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for a career-high 209 yards and an
80-yard touchdown, while Randall Cobb had a pair of touchdown catches in the
“We were in a spot, but our players stayed the course,” Packers head coach
Mike McCarthy said.
The Lions are also 1-1, doing it in the opposite fashion, following up an
impressive home win over the New York Giants in a Week 1 with a dud of a
performance on the road in Carolina, losing to the defensive-minded Panthers
Matthew Stafford finished 27-for-48 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an
interception for the Lions, while embattled rookie kicker Nate Freese missed a
pair of field goal attempts.
“We turned the ball over and if you lose that battle against a team with a
defense like that it’s going to be tough,” said Stafford. “I could have been a
lot better on my throws with a few of those early chances we had.”
“What you have to make certain of is that everybody needs to understand that
this only counts as one game,” Lions first-year coach Jim Caldwell added. This
team is not 0-12, or anything of that nature, so there’s some balance to it.
Green Bay leads the all-time series by a 94-66-7 margin.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The marquee storylines here are the quarterbacks and the star receivers.
To date, the Rodgers-Stafford dynamic has been a mismatch, with Rodgers having
the gaudy numbers and Stafford countering with a 1-6 record against Green Bay
while throwing 13 touchdowns versus 14 interceptions.
Both have dynamic wideouts to throw to with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson regarded
as the best in the game and Nelson competing for runner-up honors. Megatron’s
exploits are well-documented and he has 12 TDs in 12 games against Green Bay,
while Nelson’s 209 receiving yards last week were the most by a Packer since
Don Beebe’s 220 in 1996.
“Jordy, you always see him making some big plays. He is definitely their big-
play guy,” Johnson said. “He’s a guy we’ve got to be able to contain come
Sunday; you know, not let him get the ball and run with it and find seams to
make bigger plays after he catches it.”
While that stuff might be the sexy storylines, however, the guts of the game
may be in the trenches where Detroit is struggling to run the football,
averaging a dismal 3.0 yards per rush thus far.
Joique Bell (87 yards on 25 carries) has been slightly more effective than
Reggie Bush (41 yards on 15 totes) but the Lions’ reliance on the big-play
passing game may be turning their offensive line into a finesse unit which
doesn’t like knocking heads.
“We will be level-headed, get our corrections made, focus on our next
opponent and move forward,” Caldwell claimed.
The Packers, on the other hand, are dreadful defending the run, allowing 176.5
rushing yards per game, 31st in a 32-team league.
The absence of injured nose tackle B.J. Raji certainly hurts but the harsh
reality is that Green Bay hasn’t been able to stop the run for years. Some of
the troubles stem from the undisciplined play of pass rusher Clay Matthews and
others are pointed directly at inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones,
who simply aren’t downhill thumpers.
In a close game Freese could also be an issue and the Lions worked out a
handful of veteran kickers this week including Garrett Hartley, Rob Bironas
and Alex Henery.
That’s a clear indication Freese, who is just 2-of-5 this season with a long
of 28 yards, will only be getting one more mulligan.
“At this point in time, he is our guy,” Caldwell said. “I think (he’s) a young
guy who has potential. But just like anything else in our business, it’s
performance business. And we all certainly understand that thing, and he
understands it as well.”
This is a statement game for the Lions but until they get the best of Rodgers,
it’s hard to say they will. Figure on another Freese miscue to be the
difference in this one.
“It’s a big game. It’s a divisional game,” Johnson said. “It’s a home game for
us, so we definitely want to take care of our home field. At the same time, we
want to take care of our divisional games whenever they come.”
Sports Network predicted outcome: Packers 31, Lions 28