In all likelihood the Detroit Lions will miss the playoffs. It’s been a disappointing season for a team that was largely viewed as on the rise after last season. This year however, is much different. 4-8 for last place in a division that has the Vikings is not a good place for any team to be, especially a team like the Lions with the awesome spot talent they have.
Nevertheless, this continues to be one of the best division rivalries in the NFL. Detroit’s Ndamakong Suh is a beastly player, and he tends to play his beastliest when playing Green Bay (he stomps on heads). So, you can most definitely expect a highly physical game as both teams have ridiculously underperforming defenses anchored by consistent players.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they have been ravaged by injury all season and the promise that quarterback Matthew Stafford displayed last season has been all-but-washed away by constantly having to play from behind. A team like Detroit can’t survive if it’s always having to pass the ball because it completely neuters an already porous backfield. I could go on and on about the Lions’ problems, and the Packers look to be settling into a Super Bowl run, but tonight’s marquee game will be a good one nonetheless. As unlikely as it is, this would be a moral victory of the highest order for a team not yet there.
Here are 3 keys to the Lions winning the game:
1. Press Aaron Rodgers
Of course, every defense needs to press the QB, but that obvious strategy is far more important when playing against an explosive quarterback in Rodgers. Additionally, the Lions have one of the strongest DT combinations in the league. The heart of the Detroit Lions is most definitely its defensive line, and they delivered last week by hitting Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck 13 times.
Rodgers is one of, if not the best passer in the game. He also knows how to run. He’s dangerous and we all know it, but so is Detroit’s up-front defensive unit. They need to press Rodgers up front if they hope to counteract the effect (or lack thereof) of a depleted secondary.
2. Involve the backfield
As mentioned above, the Lions backfield is not incredibly effective. It’s the largest weakness on an otherwise solid offensive unit. Stafford can air it out, and he’s establishing poise in the pocket… and he’s got arguably the best wide receiver in the game to throw it to. But, that doesn’t mean much when your backfield is predictable and weak. All season long opposing defenses have completely squelched what was last year an explosive offense. As long as the Lions remain a one-dimensional team on that side of the ball then they will continue to struggle with maintaining a lead, much less winning a game. It has hurt them for most of the season, as Calvin Johnson went the first 8 games with just one touchdown reception. He has since caught one in each of his last 4 games.
It’s great to have finally awoken Megatron, but Detroit has to involve its scat back combination of Joique Bell and Mikel LeShoure if it wants to actually get ahead of the Packers and not be forced to play from behind.
3. Pray it doesn’t snow
Aaron Rodgers is a 8-1 in his career at home in December. Lambeau Field is one of the toughest places to play football and that is especially true in the cold month of December. It doesn’t help the Lions’ chances that Rodgers’ 105 passer rating tops the league. He hasn’t thrown for a passer rating lower than 81 all year, and those numbers tend to trend upward when Green Bay’s home field advantage really comes into play. The legendary Frozen Tundra is often times the Packers’ best weapon against opposing teams. The only similar advantage can be found at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, but the Bills haven’t fielded a competitive team in years so we never hear about it. Considering the ravaged Detroit secondary will be playing in such an environment, Rodgers could very well light up this Lions defense worse than they have seen all season.
Their first meeting was a close one, and the Lions were able to keep up with Green Bay because they involved their ground game. But, if they fail to do so again—and especially if Suh and Nick Fairley are neutralized on the defensive line—then expect Aaron Rodgers to absolutely embarrass the Detroit Lions tonight.
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