It’s Week 2, which means it’s time to talk about injuries. We wondered if we’d see a rash of muscle-related injuries early in the season–in light of the fact that there was no preseason to truly prepare the players for the rigors of the brutal and lightning fast game they play.
The Pack and Lions already both have their share, and the missing players on Sunday will likely help determine which team comes away with the win. We’ve been raised to understand that home games against the Lions are automatic wins, which nearly always held true–until five years ago, when Detroit started a run of three out of four wins at Lambeau. They nearly made it three in a row last year, but the Pack squeaked out the come from behind win, thanks in part to a couple of friendly calls by umpire Jeff Rice.
Fortunately for the Lions, Rice has retired, because his crew, led by Clete Blakeman returns to officiate this one, meeting #180 in the series.
The injuries: the Pack will be without their best defensive player. Kenny Clark’s groin injury has yet to be discussed publicly, but he hasn’t practiced this week. It weakens the weakest part of the defense, with no reliable replacement on the roster. Za’Darius Smith will be asked to play inside on passing downs, but either Kingsley Keke or the perennially banged up Montravius Adams needs to step up on early downs.
The concerns on the offensive line don’t appear as daunting as they did on Sunday. Yes, the Pack has lost right guard Lane Taylor for the season (tough break for a kid who beat the odds to reclaim his job). Billy Turner, who missed the opener, is practicing fully, as is Elgton Jenkins who popped up on the injury list on Wednesday. Ditto for Lucas Patrick, who exited early Sunday with a shoulder injury.
The question is, how will the Pack line up? I assume Jenkins returns to left guard and Billy Turner gets the start at right tackle. Would Patrick play right guard or would rookie Jon Runyan get the spot? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
The Lions’ injury list is much more damaging. They’ll likely be without star receiver Kenny Golladay, who missed the Bears game while nursing a hamstring injury. He hasn’t practiced this week. Hamstrings are all over the injury list: Cornerback Desmond Trufant was brought in via free agency to replace Darius Slay. The former Falcon has practiced all week. Fellow corner Justin Coleman was placed on IR this week, also with a hammy. Yet another corner, Darryl Roberts, is nursing a calf injury. He missed practice Wednesday, but returned (limited) on Thursday. Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai has yet to practice this week, and defensive tackle Nick Williams is limited with a shoulder injury.
Talk about adding injury to insult. The Lions still have to be fuming about how they let the Bears game get away. After allowing Mitch Trubisky to lead a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, they were ready to escape in the closing seconds, until rookie running back DeAndre Swift dropped a perfect pass from Matthew Stafford.
So they’re coming into Lambeau, banged up and angry, not just about last week’s loss, but also about how they let both games get away against the Pack last season, leading both games the entire way–until the final play of the game.
I’m really curious to see how the Pack’s defense performs. It’s hard to get a feel for how they played last week because they weren’t on the field much and held the Vikes for three quarters and gave up big chunks of yards late, when the game was no longer in question.
The loss of Golladay is huge, meaning Jaire Alexander can spend much of his time on perennial Packer-killer Marvin Jones. Former Badger Quintez Cephus was targeted a team high ten times last week, catching three of them. The big challenge will be second year tight end TJ Hockenson. The former top ten pick was productive last week, after missing most of his rookie season injured. The Pack’s D has to improve against talented tight ends. This will be a good test.
The Lions will feed their three-headed running attack to see if the Pack can slow them down, especially without Clark. The trio of Kerryon Johnson, Swift and the ageless Adrian Peterson rushed for 138 yards and nearly five yards per carry against the Bears, led by AP’s 93. This will be a good test for the Pack’s new inside linebackers, both coming off good efforts against the Vikes. Christian Kirksey and undrafted rookie Krys Barnes, were the top two tacklers last week. Barnes flashed with six tackles, two for loss, in just 15 snaps. He figures to be on the field a lot more this week.
While I think the Lions will move the ball on the Pack, I can’t see how they stop Green Bay. They have very little pass rush, relying mostly on Trey Flowers, who now has some history with David Bakhtiari. And with Rodgers unlikely to be under duress, he’ll have time to find open receivers against the Lions’ depleted secondary. They should have their #1 pick (and #3 overall) Jeff Okudah on the field on Sunday. The corner from Ohio State missed last week, dealing with, wait for it, a hammy. Welcome to the NFL, Jeff. Please meet Davante Adams.
Coach Matt LaFleur said this week that he wants to get rookie AJ Dillon more involved, after just two carries in the opener (for 14 yards). He, Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams should all be productive, considering the fact that they won’t see primarily eight man boxes like they did last week in Minneapolis. Mike Zimmer dared Rodgers to throw all afternoon. The Lions won’t be foolish enough to try that. They usually play man to man, and they are at a distinct disadvantage on the back end.
This has all the makings of a high scoring game, in my opinion. I hope the Pack’s defense shows me something, but Stafford has been up to the challenge in recent meetings. I think the loss of Clark will be felt and the Lions will chew up yardage on the ground and over the middle. But Rodgers and the Pack will be able to keep up and ultimately take care of business.
Packers 31 Lions 27