Ndamukong Suh vs. Evan Dietrich-Smith
After an impressive rookie campaign, Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has struggled to make as noticeable an impact this season. What many fail to realize is that the interior of the defensive line is the second most unheralded position on the field, next to the offensive line. Players aren’t supposed to make tackles, or accumulate inordinate amounts of sacks, but rather take up blocks, clog running lanes, and free up other players to make these plays. Anything else is a bonus. This has to be difficult for someone who is used to being the star, the playmaker, and the most feared player on the field. These frustrations came to a boiling point on Thanksgiving Day with the infamous “stomp” of Packer guard Evan Dietrich-Smith by Suh, costing him a two game suspension, a lot of money, and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
This matchup in Green Bay will be one to watch, especially if the Packers rest some of their starters. Regardless of whether Rodgers or Flynn are taking snaps, Green Bay features a passing attack, and pressure is the best way to stop it. It will be interesting to see if Suh can remain satisfied as a role player, allowing his teammates to make plays, or if his frustrations will come to a head again against the Pack. Somehow Dietrich-Smith was able to irritate, agitate, and provoke Suh more than any other player in his career which makes this matchup so intriguing, and so integral to each team’s success.
Calvin Johnson (if active) vs. Green Bay Secondary
The Lions opened the season with a five game winning streak that featured dominant performances by wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Teams eventually began selling out to take Johnson away, often leaving single coverage throughout the rest of the field. This slowed the Lions down for a while, until they visited Oakland. When it came down to crunch time Matthew Stafford decided to go to Johnson anyway, proving once and for all that the man simply cannot be covered. This trend continued in week 16 against San Diego. Calvin is just too good.
The Packers have a very skilled secondary regardless of what the misleading statistics may say. Teams are throwing in record amounts against Green Bay, largely due to the Packers gaining large leads early on. The Packers will likely sell out to bracket Johnson, daring Stafford to throw elsewhere to beat them. Johnson will still have his chances, whether he is open or not, and his ability to make the big play is what makes this offense run. If Johnson is neutralized, the law offices of Burleson, Pettigrew, and Young must step up.
Other Matchups to Watch
Most NFL games are chess matches match between coordinators and coaches as they try to put their players in the best situation to win. This matchup will feature two playoff bound teams, who will be balancing the importance of victory, with remaining healthy for the post-season.
The Packers have wrapped up home field advantage, and are more likely to rest players. The Lions have more to play for in this game with the 5 seed at stake, and the chance to face the NFC East division winner rather than taking a trip to New Orleans or San Francisco. This game also means more to Detroit, having not won at Lambeau Field since 1991.