Keep the Brooms in the Closet.Posted:Dec 2nd, 2015 6:15 pm
No, the Packers aren't getting swept by the Lions this year. No, the roar has not been restored.
True, the Kitties seem reborn since the bye week, winners of three straight and launching their little run with a win at Lambeau. Their offense has been awakened by their new coordinator, who sounds like he should be a character on Hee Haw. And their defense has a new leader: sack-meister Ziggy Ansah.
But the Packers have shown us in recent years that when things look dire and they need a victory, especially one on the road, that they can flex their muscles and take care of business. They certainly come into this one looking vulnerable, losers of four of their last five and struggling to find an offensive identity.
But there is a simple recipe when it comes to playing the Lions: run the ball. Run it early and run it often. The Packers' ground game has found its rhythm the last two weeks and they need to continue to feed Eddie Lacy and James Starks in this game.
In the three Lions wins in this series since 2013, the Packers have averaged 49 rushing yards per game. In the Pack's victories during that time period they have averaged 166 yards per game on the ground. Had the Pack stayed committed to the run on Thanksgiving night, I have no doubt they would have won that game. Of course, when your best back puts the ball on the ground and flips the momentum of the game, it can give you pause. But Lacy needs at least 20 touches on Thursday night. If he gets them, the Pack will win.
The passing game continues to be a head scratcher, with Aaron Rodgers calling out his young receivers and their commitment to preparation. They threw the ball 61 times in the previous meeting, to little effect. If the running games is clicking early, the passing game should follow. One thing the Lions don't do is take the ball away. They're tied for last in the league with four interceptions for the season.
When the Lions have the ball, they rely on the air attack and Matthew Stafford. Though they scored 45 on Thanksgiving Day against the hapless Eagles, this is an offense that has also struggled of late, scoring a total of 46 points in the three games leading up to Turkey Day.
They will try to run the ball with a combination of Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell, but will likely find more success through the air. Megatron scored three times last week and Golden Tate continues to be a solid third down target. And the Pack needs to be wary of former Notre Dame standout Theo Riddick, who plays the role of Reggie Bush in this offense. Last week he caught five passes for 62 yards and a TD; he's the top receiving back in the league this year and is extra dangerous on his fast, indoor track.
Speaking of which, this is the Pack's first and only indoor game of the season--maybe that will help the passing game find its groove. Look for Jeff Janis to get more opportunities on the fast track at Ford Field--his kickoff returning prowess has been a shot in the arm to this pedestrian offense.
This game is not a must-win, but it's pretty close, with winnable games the next two weeks before the showdown in Arizona. Winning the division and securing a home playoff game is the goal right now (though I ask you: would you rather host the Seahawks or travel to Washington in the wildcard round? I could listen to both sides of that argument).
The important thing is to win a division game and get the bad taste of the last two Lambeau losses out of their system. If the defense plays the way it has the last two weeks and the Packers stay committed to the run, they should begin the climb back to respectability on Thursday night.
Packers 23 Lions 19