The Pack get set to play under the lights for the third time in their first six games, with a couple more to come, in Kansas City in a couple of weeks and in Minnesota in Week 16. For Detroit, this is their only prime time game, their one chance to show the nation who they are (not counting Thanksgiving, of course). You can bet they’re dying to show that this is indeed a four team race in the North.
So here come the Lions, well rested coming off their bye and ready for their prime time close up. Seen as an afterthought in the tough NFC North coming into the season, Detroit has opened eyes with their play through the first four weeks and will come into Lambeau hungry, confident and healthy.
After serving as the Pack’s doormats for most of the last 25 years, the Lions have turned the tables of late, winning the last four and jumping out to big leads in both matchups last season. Darren Bevell was brought in to run the offense and he has Matthew Stafford playing at a high level, aided by a solid running game led by Kerryon Johnson. Stafford has no shortage of targets, led by big physical Kenny Golladay, Packer-killer Marvin Jones, slot guy Danny Amendola and rookie tight end TJ Hockenson.
Mike Pettine’s defense has been terrific getting after the passer and taking the ball away and they’ll need to be at their best on Monday night. They’ll be without rookie standout safety Darnell Savage, who’s nursing an injured ankle. Will Redmond stepped in and played well against the Cowboys–we’ll see if he continues to improve. His play against the Eagles was subpar.
Like last week, the Packers need to be dominant on first down, putting Stafford into obvious passing situations, where he tends to force things at times, especially in big spots on the road. His record against winning teams is Kirk Cousins-like. But he’s looked very comfortable in Bevell’s offense and won’t lack confidence facing the Packers.
Obviously after watching Aaron Jones dominate the Cowboys, Matt Patricia and the Lions will come into this one knowing they need to shut him down and see if the Pack’s passing attack can beat them without Davante Adams. Wide receivers caught just four balls last week–obviously that’s not sustainable. That unit will need to step up this week against a Lions defense that is still average at best. Cornerback Darius Slay will likely return after missing their last game against the Chiefs and Rodgers will look elsewhere to find big plays. It’s a big opportunity for unheralded guys like Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd and Allen Lazard to announce themselves.
The Lions’ defense is near the bottom of the league against the run and their should be room outside the tackles for Jones to find daylight. Jamaal Williams returns from his concussion so he’ll provide a nice complement and help keep Jones fresh. Once again, this offense needs to be productive in the red zone–something they did well last week–and needs to stay balanced. Rodgers has just six TD passes through five games,a far cry from what we’re used to. But the team is winning, Rodgers is happy and you figure the touchdowns will come.
In a quirk of the schedule, this is the first of three straight Packer opponents who will get extra time to prepare. The Lions and Raiders will be coming off byes, and the Chiefs will be coming off a Thursday night game. That definitely favors the Pack’s opponents–at least the first two games are at home. Having lost their last prime timer at Lambeau, the Pack needs this one badly. They still have dicey road tests in KC, SF, Minnesota and Detroit to deal with. They need to take care of business at home these next two weeks.
I think this is going to be a tight one. The Lions know they will be sitting atop the division if they can pull the upset and will be talked about as NFC contenders. But on a chilly night at Lambeau, with temps hovering around 40, I see Rodgers making a couple more plays than Stafford. It might take a late drive, but the Packers escape to make it 3-0 in the division.
Packers 27 Lions 24