Can Pack Put Lions in Deep Freese?Posted:Sep 19th, 2014 4:16 pm
As the Packers get set to embark on a key stretch of three division games in 11 days, let's take stock of what we know about this team through two games.
The 2014 version of this team that we all had in our heads before the season started has yet to show itself. Are they the undisciplined, not ready for prime time bunch we saw in Seattle on opening night? Are they the sleep-in-their-eyes late risers who woke up just in time to beat a team they were expected to handle easily? Are they Super Bowl contenders or just a good team that will win enough games behind Aaron Rodgers to keep them in the playoff hunt come holiday time?
These next three games should give us a clue as to how high this team could climb. When we last saw the Pack at Ford Field, last Thanksgiving Day, they were blown out. Now we know Rodgers didn't play that day and we also know that Rodgers has never lost to the Lions in games he's started and finished. That should provide a level of optimism for this Sunday, but obviously it's a new season and the Lions have a brand new coaching staff.
The Lions looked great at home on opening night when they dismantled the Giants, a team that will be lucky to win five games this season. Their offense was grounded in Carolina last weekend, despite the fact that the Panthers de-activated (finally) their best player just hours before kickoff.
Matthew Stafford is a confounding player for Lions fans to watch. At times he looks like Brett Favre. Other times he looks like Randy Wright. He still has Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the game, who always seems to make big plays against the Pack (and everyone else). They added Packer nemesis Golden Tate to take some of the pressure off Megatron. Through two games he's been productive: 11 catches for 150 yards. The Pack can't roll all the coverage over to #81; Tate needs to be accounted for, especially if they try a Hail Mary (sorry).
The Lions' two-headed running attack has been slow out of the gates. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell have found little room so far--much due to an offensive line that has not looked very good. They're thin to begin with and with right tackle LaAdrian Waddle unlikely to play with a calf injury, they're even thinner. If the defense handles the run like they did last week, they could force Joe Lombardi and the Lions to become pass-happy. Clay and company should be able to rattle Stafford into some mistakes.
That said, the Lions are always more productive at home and should be able to put up 24 points in their sleep. The question is, can the Pack score more than that?
It begins this week with Eddie Lacy and the running game. After facing two staunch run defenses in Seattle and the Jets, the Lions rank 28th so far and they've faced two mediocre running teams. It feels like Lacy is ready to explode and with Bryan Bulaga expected back at right tackle, the line should be ready to help make that happen.
Since 2008, Rodgers has thrown for more yards and touchdowns against the Lions than any QB in the NFL. Granted, he gets to play them twice a year, but his numbers are impressive: in 10 games, he's had a 100-plus passer rating 8 times and has thrown 19 TDs and only 5 picks.
The Lions will no doubt try to take Jordy Nelson out of the picture, after the career game he had against the Jets. That should open up lots of opportunities for Randall Cobb and the emerging Davante Adams. The Lions continue to be thin at corner--they've lost two guys for the season and have very little talent behind starters Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay. Hard not to see Rodgers lighting up the Lions, per usual.
The point spread has the Lions favored by one and it feels like a field goal kind of game. That's where the Packers have the biggest mismatch. While Mason Crosby has been picture perfect through two games, the Lions kicking game is a mess. They're still looking for a replacement for Jason Hanson, who retired two years ago. Rookie Nate Freese has the job, but wouldn't if he wasn't a seventh round draft pick. He's two for five on field goal tries so far--making two under 30 yards and missing three in the 40s.
He's probably down to his last miss, which has to be weighing on his mind. Look for McCarthy to ice Freeze (sorry again), if the situation calls for it. If it comes down to a game of field goals, it would appear the Packers have a big edge.
Nothing we've seen from the Packers so far suggests that they're ready to go on the road and beat an explosive offensive team. But this is the Lions and it's not Thanksgiving Day and Rodgers is playing.
Packers 34 Lions 31
Reminder: I'll be watching the game at the Park Tavern on Sunday. Hope to see you at the 11th Frame, the bar behind the bowling alley. Great prizes along with food and drink specials, as always.
And, Monday is the 7th annual Border Battle golf tournament at the beautiful Stoneridge Gold Club in Stillwater. There's still time to register and it's going to be a beautiful day: www.stoneridgegc.com