Thanks to the way the NFL crafted the 2012 schedule, the Detroit Lions have completed their seasons series with the Minnesota Vikings before seeing the Green Bay Packers for the first time. The division schedule is even more backloaded for the Green Bay Packers who have yet to face the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions and have played just one game against the Chicago Bears.
The Lions and Packers may be familiar foes but the odd schedule creates a unique first meeting this season. I got together with Ray Rivard, editor at Lombardi Ave, to get a Packers-minded perspective ahead of this week’s game.
1. How big of a deal are the Packers’ injuries for this week’s game against the Lions?
Ray Rivard: Injuries play a big role for all teams, the Packers included. However, with so many guys out, it’s going to be a bid deal for the remainder of the season for the Packers. The biggest loss this week will be Clay Matthews. The Packers will be playing rookie Dezman Moses in his place. While Moses has been a pleasant surprise as an undrafted free agent, this will be his best test. Packers fans hope it’s his coming out party. “Next man up” has been the Packers mantra again this year and it seems the coaching staff schemes well enough to bring out the best in the replacements. Our only hope is that it continues.
RR: No question it’s a foolish move. However, if Williams can be a part of slowing Johnson down and keeping him out of the end zone, we may just have to start calling him Optimus Prime!
3. Who needs to have a better game on Sunday: Packers offense or Packers defense?
RR: We all know that the Packers offense has been pretty consistent overall. I think the onus falls on the defense. The key will be getting off the field on third down and if the Lions do put some drives together, that the defense holds them to field goals instead of touchdowns. If the defense can keep the Lions out of the end zone, the offense will do enough to outscore the Lions. You can always count on Aaron Rodgers for at least a couple of touchdown passes.
4. What area do the Lions need to exploit to give themselves the best chance of pulling out a win?
RR: If the Lions can somehow get a couple of turnovers and win the field position battle with the Packers, they could make a game out of it. However, if the field tilts in the Packers favor, you might as well stick a fork in the Lions. When the Packers play on a short field, they tend to score touchdowns. The Packers will also probably try to run the ball out of the blocks and if the Lions can shut that part of the game down, then they will have a much better shot at putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers – and we all know what happens when that occurs.
5. Are Packers fans concerned with trying to catch the Bears in the NFC North or is it just about getting into the playoffs?
RR: Being down by just a game with seven to play, catching the Bears could occur as early as this weekend. I don’t think that’s a huge concern. The biggest thing is simply making it into the Playoffs at this point. Even if they don’t win the division, getting into the tournament is crucial. What might be really fun is that if that occurs, they may end up playing the Bears again at some point.
6. What is your take on the game and what is your prediction?
RR: I think the Packers finally get a semblance of a running game going early in this one, opening up many opportunities for Aaron Rodgers and his receiving crew. The Lions will probably rack up some yards and stats, but I think the defense makes just enough big plays to control the Lions’ offense. I also feel the Packers special teams (with the exception of place kicking) is much better than that put on the field by the Lions. I think that will play a huge role in the outcome of this game. In the end, the Packers will be too much for the Lions. Packers 31, Lions 19