Image courtesy of Packers.com
The Packers have to feel pretty good about coming out of their bye week only one game out of first place in the division, but tomorrow they’ll have their first of 5 remaining division games to finish the season. This season, no divisional games are going to be easy. And while the Packers as a team have to be feeling pretty well, a lot of players probably aren’t. The bye week helps but the Packers are still pretty beat up and will be playing tomorrow without some of their biggest names like Jennings, Matthews and Woodson.
On that note, the first key to this game, and likely to every game going forward is injuries. Can the Packers avoid adding players to the injury list? Can the backups play well enough to win games? It’s impossible to predict the answer to the first question, but so far the answer to the second has looked like a resounding “Yes”. However, the strong play from the Packers’ backups has come against some of the NFL’s bottom feeders in recent weeks. The remaining games won’t be so easy. It’ll be a whole lot harder for the Packers to win playing like they did against Jacksonville or Arizona.
The Lions, while they may have the same record as Arizona, are playing like a much better team recently. They started off shaky but seem to have found their footing recently, and arguably the biggest reason for that has been the re-emergence of the passing game. The Lions have the league’s top passing game, as compared to 12th for the Packers, and they also possess the 7th best passing defense. If the Packers aren’t able to generate a strong pass rush and force Stafford into some early throws, their secondary is going to have a very long day trying to match up against the Lion’s wideouts.
While the Lions, rushing game isn’t nearly as productive, it’s still only averaging one yard less per game than the Packers’. And their rush defense isn’t elite, but it’s not significantly worse than average, so don’t expect the Packers to be able to pound the ball all game. Not that they’d be able to do that against any team.
On paper, the Lions might actually be the better team, and they are at home. Of course, so were the Texans. And we’ve seen the kind of games that Aaron Rodgers can have in a dome. Let’s hope it’s one of those kind of games, because this matchup is important for both teams, and the Packers will not be able to play the way they have been and expect to come out on top.