The final game of Week 2 features NFC North rivals that each lost concerning games in Week 1. The Green Bay Packers were blown off the field by the New Orleans Saints, 38-3, while the Detroit Lions were on their way to being blown out before staging a furious fourth-quarter comeback that ultimately fell short against the San Francisco 49ers.
Aaron Rodgers and company have an opportunity to get back on track in a Monday night home game, but Dan Campbell's crew showed last week that it will fight until the final whistle -- no matter how futile it seems. Can the Packers even their record at 1-1, or will the Lions plunge them into an even deeper hole?
We'll find out this evening. For now, let's break down the matchup:
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When the Lions have the ball
The strength of the Lions' roster is their offensive line -- even with left tackle Taylor Decker out. Rookie Penei Sewell acquitted himself nicely in the switch back to his natural side of the line (he'd struggled at right tackle during the preseason), while the interior linemen cleared the way for D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams to rush for 93 yards on 20 carries, or about 4.7 a pop.
Meanwhile, the Saints ran all over the Packers last week, with Alvin Kamara and Tony Jones taking their 31 carries for 133 yards. Green Bay's style of defense invites opposing offenses to run the ball and try to be patient while matriculating it downfield. If you can find success against light boxes, there are opportunities to be had. It's typically easier said than done, but Green Bay will be without the best defender among its front seven, with Za'Darius Smith going on injured reserve earlier this week.
Without Smith, it'll also be more difficult for Green Bay to get pressure on Jared Goff, who is among the quarterbacks most affected by pressure in the entire league. The Packers still have Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Jonathan Garvin and Kenny Clark to push the pocket, but none has the ceiling or consistency of Za'Darius Smith, who has been among the NFL leaders in pressures in each of his two seasons with Green Bay.
The issue for the Lions is that even if Goff has time, their receivers on the outside leave a lot to be desired. Kalif Raymond led the group in snaps last week, followed by Amon-Ra St. Brown and Trinity Benson. Tyrell Williams played a lot early, though, and if he can make a go of it Monday night, he could see a lot of coverage from shutdown Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander. Attacking Kevin King on the opposite side has occasionally proven fruitful for opposing offenses in the past, but Chandon Sullivan could also be vulnerable in the slot.
Detroit's best two pass-catchers are likely Swift and T.J. Hockenson, which means the Packers' linebackers and safeties will have to be at the top of their respective games. De'Vondre Campbell, Krys Barnes, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage will have their work cut out for them with two very different weapons testing their capabilities on pretty much every snap.
Swift and Hockenson hauled in 16 of 21 combined targets last week, gaining 162 yards and and each player notching a score through the air. The Packers gave up two touchdowns to Saints tight end Juwan Johnson in Week 1 and another to Kamara. The opportunities for the Lions to create plays should be there against a defense that has often had issues containing backs and tight ends in the pass game.
When the Packers have the ball
I hope Matt LaFleur just burned the game tape of Green Bay's 38-3 loss to the Saints. There's nothing the Packers can really take away from it that will be useful to them the rest of the season anyway. (Green Bay's third possession of the game didn't come until there was just 1:07 left in the second quarter. It's understandable that the Packers lacked rhythm.)
Here, they have an opportunity to bounce back in a big way. The Lions gave up 104 yards on 19 carries to sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell, allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to complete 17 of 25 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown and yielded an additional score to Trey Lance.
An already-thin secondary was further depleted by the season-ending injury to Jeff Okudah, who suffered a ruptured Achilles and gave up a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Deebo Samuel. Without him, it's Amani Oruwariye, Ifeatu Melifonwu and AJ Parker who will likely get the majority of the reps at corner. That's a lot of opportunity for Rodgers and Davante Adams, in particular, to eat. (Melifonwu is probably the best fit to defend Adams due to his combination of size and athleticism, but that's a lot to ask of a rookie cornerback in his second NFL game.) Detroit also showed vulnerability to the deep pass in Week 1, which could give the Packers a chance to hit a big play to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who saw eight targets but gained only 17 yards in the opener.
There's further opportunity for Aaron Jones and/or A.J. Dillon to get going after the duo combined for only 28 yards on nine carries last week. Green Bay has typically run the ball quite well during LaFleur's two-year tenure, so last week looks a lot like an aberration. Detroit drafted both Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill to help shore up its run defense, but that didn't work out so well against the Niners, who run the same style of offense as do the Packers. (LaFleur's Shanahan-style run game features a lot of zone rushes.)
If the line can keep Rodgers well protected and give the backs more room to run than they did last week, the Packers should not have much trouble moving the ball up the field against a defense that was carved up by a similar stylistic offense with worse quarterback play a week ago.
Prediction: Packers 28, Lions 20
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