Defense Will Dominate and Help Defeat Detroit...Definitely.Posted:Dec 26th, 2014 4:51 pm
This is how it's supposed to end. Well, actually, if the script were perfect, a win over the Lions on Sunday would not only clinch a fourth straight NFC North title as well as home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. A funny thing happened in Buffalo to take that out of the equation.
Nevertheless, Sunday's showdown at Lambeau has huge implications: win and rest before you host a divisional round game; lose and you head to Dallas for a likely Saturday night game in the house that Jerry built.
We all know the history here: the Packers have beaten them 24 straight times in Wisconsin, the longest active streak of home dominance in the NFL and their 7-0 record at home this year have mostly featured blowouts.
But you can throw most of that out as we analyze this matchup: Detroit boasts the kind of defense that has given the Pack fits all season: one that can rush the passer with their front four, giving them enough personnel on the back end to deal with Green Bay's prolific passing attack. And they've been incredibly stingy against the run, giving up just 52 yards per game since Halloween.
The Packers tried to run the ball time and time again in the first matchup, without much success. An early turnover put them on their heels and they were playing catch up the rest of the way. If it's not working on Sunday, expect Mike McCarthy to turn to the screen game--it can act like a running game and allow Aaron Rodgers to dump the ball off quickly, especially if the Lions' fierce from four is winning most of its matchups.
I see the Pack using some of the plays they showed in the New England game (and maybe some they've been holding back): Randall Cobb will be moved all over the field, lining up in the backfield, going in motion, doing things to keep the Lions honest. The Packers' offense obviously will revolve around the health of Rodgers' calf. I doubt he'll use his dangerous legs in this one. He's more likely to want to be able to inflict damage from the pocket most of the time, get a win, and then get that calf healthy so he's 100% in two weeks when the playoffs begin.
Where the Packers should dominate is when the defense is on the field. These Lions have been nowhere near as explosive as in seasons past and will likely like to ride the legs of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush, if they had their druthers. They've been very average all season, and have relied on late comebacks against average teams in recent weeks.
Green Bay's defense has improved dramatically lately and is healthy and ready to feed off of the Lambeau atmosphere. For some reason, the organization felt it necessary to dump a "Get Loud Lambeau" theme into our laps this week--a very Viking-like gesture. Granted, Lambeau is not the loudest home field in the world (thanks in large part to the AARP members who have been going to games since the 60s). The D has been terrific of late (outside of that second half against the Falcons when they let up with a big lead).
The Lions have big problems on the offensive line, beginning with the suspension to center and perennial loser Dominic Raiola. While his 14th year has been a drop off for him, he is still the unquestioned leader of the line, a guy who never misses a snap and call all the protections for his line mates. With him out, rookie Travis Swanson makes his first start under center. On top of that, they lost right tackle LaAdrian Waddle to injury a couple weeks ago. Rookie free agent Cornelius Lucas takes his place. Expect Julius Peppers to dominate that matchup (he beat him a couple of times in the first matchup when Lucas was playing guard).
The Lions haven't gotten much out of the tight end position this season, so look for the Pack to concentrate on Megatron and Golden Tate--they're about as dominant to their offense as Nelson and Cobb are to the Pack. Even without Davon House (who matches up nicely with Johnson), the Pack should be able to contain them, especially since Matthew Stafford will likely be harassed most of the afternoon.
Special teams is a wash, as far as I'm concerned. The game will likely turn on turnovers: something the Pack has feasted on at home this season. I see the defense coming up big and being the story when this one is over. Rodgers will be efficient and methodical, but won't put up huge numbers.
In the end, the streak reaches 25 and the Packers earn a much needed bye.
Packers 23 Lions 13