With the Detroit Lions facing a week 5 road trip to take on the Green Bay Packers, I got together with Dan Dahlke of Lombardi Ave for a quick preview Q&A.
1. I’m guessing Packers fans aren’t particularly happy with the team’s start. What have been the biggest problems and how does the team turn it around?
Yeah, a 1-2 start has been disappointing. The Packers just aren’t winning the close games. They lost by one score to two really good teams in the 49ers and Bengals, but if Green Bay wants to be considered a contender this season, they need to make the critical plays when the game is on the line. They just haven’t done this so far this season.
Simply put, the Packers need to be a better fourth quarter team. They’ve been outscored by their opponents in the fourth quarter 39 to 7. Their defense has played well at times during games, but then they’ll give up a bunch of yards and points on key drives late in the game. Overall, Green Bay just needs to be more consistent for all four quarters. They still need to put together that complete game, where they play strong until the very end.
2. Is too much being put on Aaron Rodgers‘ shoulders this year?
I don’t think so. I actually think there is less being put on his shoulders this year than in previous seasons. The Packers finally have a running game going ,which they haven’t had in years. A solid ground game definitely takes some pressure off and the defense has improved, but I don’t think Rodgers minds all the responsibility, quite frankly.
He likes being “the guy” in Green Bay and having the offense run through him. Even with an improved running game, the Packers’ offensive production will still rest on their quarterback’s shoulders. The team just needs to improve their pass protection. Rodgers still gets hit way too much in the pocket. This week will be a good test against the Lions’ talented defensive front.
3. A couple Packers have already been ruled out of action this week, how will the injury situation impact this week’s game?
Early in the week, the situation was looking much more dire. Initially, it appeared the Packers would be without Clay Matthews, and possibly starting fullback John Kuhn and starting tight end Jermichael Finley. However, it looks like all three players should be ready to play on Sunday, which is huge for the Packers. Both Matthews and Finley are playmakers on the field, and each side of the ball lost a dynamic when these players left the Cincinnati game early with injuries.
The Packers will also have their starting safety, Morgan Burnett, back. He has missed the first three weeks of the season with a hamstring injury. He’s one of Packers’ most reliable defensive backs, and he’ll be welcomed sight to a struggling Green Bay secondary.
Reserve running back, James Starks, and nickel corner, Casey Hayward, are the only players ruled out of the game so far. Starks provides a veteran presence in the backfield, and the Packers will be relying on the inexperience of three rookie backs in Starks’ absence. Hayward led the team in interceptions last year and his playmaking ability has been missed so far this season.
4. What do the Lions need to do to get their first road win over the Packers since 1991?
Defeating the Packers starts with stopping Aaron Rodgers, regardless if the game is at home or on the road. The Bengals did this pretty successfully in week three. The Packers are a pass-first team that likes to play up-tempo, spread the ball around, and exploit mismatches in the passing game with their talented receiving group.
The Bengals were able to slow the Packer offense by getting pressure with their four-man front, jamming receivers at the line, and dropping their safeties in two-shell coverage to prevent passes down the field. The Lions definitely have the talent on defense, specicially on their D-line, to play a similar type of defense and have success on Sunday.
If Suh, Fairley, and Ansah get consistent pressure on Rodgers throughout the game and can stop the Packers run without moving a safety up in the box, then they’ll have a good chance at defeating the Packers at Lambeau Field this week.
5. What is your prediction for Sunday’s game against the Lions?
This is a tough call. Honestly, I’ve been going back and forth on this one all week. In my opinion, these are the two best teams in the division, and the Lions seem to matchup really well against the Packers. They have a talented front four that can overpower the Packers offensive line and get pressure on Rodgers. They have the weapons in the passing game and the big-arm quarterback to put up some yards on the Packers struggling secondary.
If this game was being played in Detroit and the Packers weren’t coming off a bye this week, I would definitely pick the Lions to win. They’re the hot team right now and the Packers still seem like they’re trying to figure things out this season.
However, historically McCarthy’s teams play very well coming off a bye week and the Packers are tough at home to beat. I also doubt Rodgers will repeat his poor performance (64.5 passer rating) in the week three loss in Cincinnati. He’s never had two bad games like that in row in his career. Plus, it looks like the Packers will get back some of their top players in Matthews, Finley, and Burnett.
Considering all the factors, I predict the Packers will win 31-28 over Detroit. Regardless, it should be a hard fought game for both teams.
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Tags: Detroit Lions