Zac Snyder, the editor over at the Fansided site, SideLion Report, took time out of his busy schedule this week to answer some questions thrown his way about the Packers vs. Lions throwdown in Detroit Thanksgiving Day.
Q. The Packers know their number one need is to neutralize Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Everyone on the planet knows that Johnson has been a “Packer killer” since joining the league. The question is this: How have other teams slowed Johnson and do you feel the Packers have the manpower to do it?
A: The only way to slow Calvin Johnson is to slow Matthew Stafford. Those two, not coincidentally, had their worst game of the year against Chicago two weeks ago. Johnson has at least five catches in every game this season except for one.
While he had just three catches against Kansas City, two of them were for touchdowns. It’s possible to slow Calvin by rolling coverage his way but the Lions have a number of other options. What’s the point in slowing one player if you’re just going to get beat by others? Matthew Stafford threw five touchdown passes last week and they all went to different players and not one of them was named Calvin Johnson.
You can bet that the Panthers aren’t pointing to the fact that they held Johnson out of the end zone.
Q. This could be a shootout. Both teams have the QB with the strong arm and the talent to stretch the field. Realistically, who do you think will come out with most points in the end and why?
A: I’ll give the edge on paper to the Packers. They’re the defending Super Bowl champions and they are an absolute offensive machine with a quarterback with the benefit of more seasoning than Matthew Stafford has.
Q. Matthew Stafford has been up and down for the Lions this year. He has had some unbelievable games, but has also thrown in some stinkers – most notably the game against Chicago. Will he adjust well to the many looks the Packers will throw at him and do you feel he will have one of his “up” weeks?
A: The stats opposing quarterbacks have put up against the Packers so far suggests that Stafford will have one of his “up” games. That being said, he has thrown six interceptions in the last two weeks and the turnover ability of the Packers defense has always impressed me. If he can avoid the big mistakes then he can have a great day.
Q. Will the Lions rely heavily on the legs of Kevin Smith as they did last week against Carolina? If they do, is this a wise strategy considering the Packers ability to stop the run?
A: The Lions are not a run-first team so they won’t go in to the game leaning too heavily on Kevin Smith, even with the great game he had last week. He’ll get touches, no doubt, but the Lions offensive success is predicated on the arm of Matthew Stafford. Kevin Smith’s final numbers from last week might make it look like he was relied on more heavily than he actually was. He didn’t get a carry in the first quarter and was part of a balanced attack from then on.
Q. Are the Lions feeling better about their chances at a wild card playoff slot (or even a division title if the Packers implode) now that Jay Cutler is out of the picture in Chicago?
A: I know I do. The Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 so I have no problem with them benefiting from the misfortunes of another team to end the streak.
Q. Tampa Bay came the closest to shutting down Aaron Rodgers this season … do the Lions feel they’ve caught Rodgers in a “down” mode and what do you feel the Lions defense will do to try and slow down the vaunted Packers offense?
A: Aaron Rodgers is too good of a quarterback to letting what happened last week affect him on Thursday. The Lions will try to do the same thing they tried (and found some success) doing last year, getting after him with pressure up front. A lot of people remember Rodgers getting knocked out of the game in Detroit last year but not a lot of people remember that the Lions defense had shut him down for a half before his exit. The Lions will bring pressure from the edges and up the middle and they can limit the damage if they can make Rodgers uncomfortable.