In looking at the upcoming season and analyzing the big games for the Detroit Lions, talk must turn to division opponents. For the Lions, the biggest divisional opponent is the Green Bay Packers, who have won the division for the last three seasons. Winning the NFC North means beating the Pack, and this 2014 Detroit team matches up with them pretty well.
The Lions traveled to Lambeau Field in week 5. Calvin Johnson was out with injury, and Detroit struggled in a 22-9 loss. The Packers traveled to Ford Field in week 13 for Thanksgiving. Aaron Rodgers was out with injury, and Green Bay really struggled in a 40-10 loss. The Lions finished with a division record of 4-2, while the Packers managed a 3-2-1 due to a tie with the Vikings.
The Lions have a new coaching staff, as well as new schemes on defense and offense. They have added new pass-catching playmakers, and a couple of secondary pieces. The Packers have added Julius Peppers from the Bears, making their defense a bit more scary.
Lions Offense v. Packers Defense
Detroit still has Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, arguably the best passing combination in the league. In addition, the Lions now have Golden Tate, a sure-handed receiver with an uncanny ability to gain yards after the catch. Detroit has an arsenal at TE, with Pettigrew, Fauria and Ebron. In the backfield, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell have shown tremendous ability to run the ball and catch passes. All of these offensive weapons are backed up by one of the league’s top offensive lines.
Even so, playing against the Packers defense is no picnic. Julius Peppers joins the Pack this season, more than likely bringing some big pressure to the Lions passer. Clay Matthews is still there, and still playing at a high level. These two guys will need to be planned for; they are big time defensive playmakers.
Additionally, there are solid players on the line like B.J. Raji, who have plenty of experience playing against the big cats. In the secondary, Green Bay has struggled at times, but players like Sam Shields at corner cannot be underestimated. Expect Shields to spend the majority of his time covering Megatron.
Packers Offense v. Lions Defense
The Packers offensive line has not been that great, but it’s hard to notice because Aaron Rodgers is so good at being mobile and avoiding sacks. As far as QBs are concerned, the Packers have one of the absolute best. Aaron Rodgers has been league MVP and Superbowl MVP, and there is no reason to doubt he’ll be just as good in 2014.
Rodgers has two quality receivers in Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. The Packers have two high quality RBs in James Starks and Eddie Lacy. Offensively speaking, the Packers are pretty stacked. There is a reason they keep winning the division.
The defensive front of the Lions is formidable. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ezekial Ansah are tough men that are hard to stop. DeAndre Levy is also a solid defensive playmaker behind the defensive line. At safety, the Lions look to be better this season, but there are still a lot of question marks in the Detroit secondary; they’ll need to play at their best to have a chance to limit the scoring power of Green Bay.
Which team will win in week 3? The Lions. These two teams play twice, being division rivals, and the week 3 contest is at Ford Field. The safe assumption is that there will be a split, with the Packers winning at Lambeau in the final week of the season. The hope for Detroit is that the playoffs will be all wrapped up by then, because nobody wants the road to the post-season blocked by Green Bay.