Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Preview by the Numbers


Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions free safety Louis Delmas (26) celebrates after the game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. The Lions won 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the only numbers the Detroit Lions care about are “3-1” and “first place in the NFC North.”

That’s understandable, considering the Lions are coming off a huge divisional win, and are now heading to Lambeau Field to attempt another one.  But the other numbers are still important, both to describe the story of how the Lions got to this point, and to show what areas of the team they need to work on in the future.

Of course, what is a look at the Lions’ stats without a comparison to the Lions’ next opponent? It’s time to give some context to the Lions’…

NFL Rankings

In the past, I have shown a table with the Lions’ major measurable stats, and the change from last week. The table below is still doing that, but in the interest of previewing next week’s matchup, it also has the Packers’ comparable stats.

In other words, it compares the Lions’ offense to the Packers’ offense, and the Lions’ defense to the Packers’ offense. This makes it easier to see disparities, and thus exploitable matchups.

Surprised to see the Lions’ fall off in nearly every defense area? Don’t be. Remember, the Bears posted 137 yards of offense during their two late touchdown drives. Whether you call that “garbage time” or “a failed comeback attempt” is a matter of your own perspective.

Beyond even that, the Lions continue to be susceptible to the big running play. The defense’s first play of the year was giving up a 78-yard touchdown to Adrian Peterson, and they gave up a 53-yard score to Matt Forte in Week 4. The Lions defense might be better than its rankings suggest, but it isn’t a swarming, suffocating defense, and the high-powered Green Bay offense should be able to find cracks in it.

However, there are two areas where the Lions defense really shines, and those will be key to stopping the Packers this weekend: third-down defense and turnovers.

The Lions are barely allowing one in every five third-down conversions. Against the Bears, they didn’t allow a third-d0wn conversion until the last five minutes of the game, when they were playing a soft prevent zone. Compounding that, the Packers are surprisingly in the bottom half of the league in third-down conversion rate.

In addition, the Lions pulled a positive turnover differential against a Bears team that had built their entire first three weeks on turnover differential. The Packers are actually on the negative side of turnover differential this season, and will need to show that their carelessness with the ball is the exception, not the rule, to survive the visiting Lions.

This is ultimately a matchup between two teams whose offenses outpace their defenses. There is little doubt that there will be plenty of points scored and yards gained (though one of those weird 7-3 games is always possible), the question for the Lions is whether they can get their defense off the field when it matters, and force enough mistakes to tip the scales.

Fantasy Corner

Sep 29, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker

Lance Briggs

(55) attempts to tackle Detroit Lions tight end

Brandon Pettigrew

(87) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Pleasant Surprise

Oh, well, hey there, Brandon Pettigrew! Nice of you to join us here in the 2013 season.

Last week, I said it was probably time to cut anchor with the maligned tight end, and I’m not yet convinced otherwise. But his seven-catch, 54-yard performance against Chicago was, while not exactly a full redemption, a step in the right direction. Pettigrew is another solid performance or two away from even being worth a TE2 stash, but if you’ve been holding on to him in a deep league, you got some good news this week. If nothing else, keep an eye on him.

Bitter Dissapointment

Hidden amongst the (well-deserved) Reggie Bush hoopla is the fact that having him in the lineup takes a lot of touches away from Joique Bell. Bell is a solid back when he gets the ball, and he’s usually an effective grinder in third down, short-yardage, or late-game situations. But his inexcusable fumble in the four-minute drill last week might cost him touches against Green Bay, if only as a result of coaching discipline.

Week 5 Sleeper

Don’t go nuts on this just yet, but in Nate Burleson‘s absence, it looks like Kris Durham might garner some attention in the coming weeks. He and Matthew Stafford seem to be increasingly on the same page, and while he probably isn’t a threat to score you 20 points each week, he did lead the team in receiving yardage with 58 last week. As we’ve established, Green Bay has the 28th-ranked passing defense in the league, and they earned that mark against such illustrious passing offenses as Washington (7th), Cincinnati (15th), and San Francisco (27th).

Random Numbers

This week, we’re showing how far the Lions have come over last year, by comparing their first four games in 2013 to their entire 2012 season. Enjoy the results.

8/138 — Interceptions/return yards after four games for the 2013 Lions

11/135 — Interceptions/return yards after 16 games for the 2012 Lions

2 — Lions defensive touchdowns in 2013 (not including the DeAndre Levy INT called back for the low block on Ndamukong Suh)

0 — Lions defensive touchdowns in 2012

4 — Calvin Johnson touchdowns in 2013

5 — Calvin Johnson touchdowns in 2012

239 — Nate Burleson’s receiving yards in 2013

240 — Nate Burleson’s receiving yards in 2012

48.8/72 — Punting average/season long for punter Sam Martin, selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft

41.5/58 — Punting average/season long for punter Nick Harris in 2012

+ 4 — Turnover ratio in 2013

– 16 — Turnover ratio in 2012

13.5 — percentage of Lions pass attempts caught by Calvin Johnson in 2013

12 — percentage of pass attempts caught by Lions’ second-leading receiver (Nate Burleson) in 2013

16.5 — percentage of Lions pass attempts caught by Calvin Johnson in 2012

8 — percentage of pass attempts caught by Lions’ second-leading receiver (Brandon Pettigrew) in 2012