Over the past quarter century or so, you could count on three things as a Packer fan: Lambeau Field would be packed every game, you could always find Gilbert Brown at the Burger King drive-thru and the Pack would beat the Lions at home.
Only once did the latter not happen. But the Motor City Kitties, losers of three straight, come into Lambeau Monday night as a 2 1/2 point favorite. Such is the state of the current Packers, who while dealing with a backup quarterback making just his second career start are now scrambling to find a long snapper, with Taybor Pepper out for the season with a broken foot–injured in practice this week.
With an offense dealing with an identity crisis, a new crisis for special teams is the last thing this team needs right now. Longtime snapper Brett Goode is on the street, but can’t come back to the Pack till after week ten, because they waived him off IR. Granted, long snapper is not the most vital member of the 53, but Green Bay needs every small edge it can get, and neither Mason Crosby nor Justin Vogel will feel comfortable dealing with a brand new long snapper who will have very little time to practice.
We all know how important this game is to the Packers, who really need to win two of the next three (Lions, at Bears, Ravens) to stay in the thick of things. The Lions feel equally desperate having lost their last three. But this is a division road game and they’ve already won one of those (at Minnesota). Their schedule eases up a bit for their next three (Browns, at Bears, Vikings on Thanksgiving).
The Packers have been great after the bye under McCarthy, 9-2, but have never had to deal with a backup QB in this situation. Hopefully, they’ve used the time to find ways to make Brett Hundley more comfortable. The Lions are better defensively, but their pass rush is even worse than the Pack’s, so the youngster should have more time to execute the offense–he just needs to make smart decisions.
Of course, the Pack will lean on Aaron Jones to keep the Lions’ defense honest. It looks possible that the five offensive line starters will all take he field to start the game (though Lane Taylor might be a bit iffy)–that is a huge development if this offense has a chance to keep pace with a Lions offense that has been great between the 20s.
For Detroit, running the ball is a rumor. Look for Matthew Stafford to drop back at least 50 times and test the Pack’s corners. He’s heard all week that he’s 3-10 against the Pack but this time he’ll be the best QB on the field and if he’d given time, he’ll carve up Dom Caper’s defense. One big thing working in the Pack’s favor is the return of Morgan Burnett, who’s back after missing the last two games with a hammy. We saw what happens to this unit when someone else is charged with wearing the miked up helmet. Getting Burnett back is huge.
It is this unit that needs to win this game. They need to create turnovers, keep penalties to a minimum and avoid giving up big plays. Overall, the unit appears to be healthy, with depth guys like Brooks, Dial and Brice banged up, but the starters all good to go. The Lions went 0-5 with TDs in the red zone on Sunday night and know they need to get much better if they expect to win close games. The Pack must keep them on this downward trend, which has them now 25th in red zone efficiency.
As important as it is for the defense to stand tall a home on Monday night, Hundley will need to step up in a big way. Nelson, Adams and Cobb need to be given a chance to make plays. I think we’ll see a much more impressive Hundley on Monday night. He’ll look more confident and he’ll make some big plays. But he’s also likely to make a big mistake or two. That might not be enough to swing the game, but combine that with the uncertainty on special teams because of the long snapper situation and the Pack comes up just short.
Lions 24 Packers 21