The Packers are a dangerous team, especially after the bye week.
Under head coach Mike McCarthy the Packers are 5-1 coming off their bye week. This week the Packers (6-3) head to Detroit to take on the Lions (4-5) in a NFC North showdown. First place could potentially be on the line for the Packers; with a win and a Chicago loss at San Francisco Monday Night, both teams would be 7-3, however, the Packers would hold the tiebreaker due to the week 2 win over Chicago at Lambeau.
What do the Packers have to do to ensure a win Sunday? Here are four keys to a Packers’ victory Sunday.
1. Run the Ball
The Packers have struggled to run the ball since the injury to Cedric Benson, and weren’t that effective with him. The strength of the much-improved Detroit defense is their defensive line led by Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril and of course “stomp king” Ndamukong Suh.
The Lions have been much better on defense compared to a year ago; in 2012 they are No. 9 in the NFL in total defense, including No. 6 against the pass. The Packers will have to find a balance in the run game, which will in turn open up the pass game for Aaron Rodgers and company. The Lions have a weak run defense, which ranks No. 17 in the NFL giving up more than 115 yards per game. Rodgers and the Packers will be able to throw the ball regardless, however, if they’re successful in the ground game they become nearly impossible to defend.
2. Slow Down Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson Connection
It’s no secret that the Stafford and Johnson owned the Packers’ secondary last season. In two games against the Packers last season, Johnson had 15 catches for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns, that’s not going to cut it for the Packers’ defense. The Packers defense has improved drastically from last year to this year, but they’re still ranked No. 20 against the pass giving up nearly 244 yards a game. If the Packers can’t slow down Megatron, they will have a tough time getting stops on defense.
3. Protect Aaron Rodgers
After a rough start to the year the offensive line has found its game as of late. However, now injuries have forced the Packers to reshuffle their line with the loss of Bryan Bulaga. Evan Dietrich-Smith will get the start at left guard, which will shift TJ Lang out to right tackle. Smith is a very versatile player for the Packers and could even start for a handful of teams in the NFL. So although the loss of Bulaga isn’t ideal, Smith is more than capable of filling the void. Detroit is tied for 16th in sacks this season with just 20. However, the talent is there and they have the ability to make a quarterback’s day difficult. If Rodgers has time to look down field and set his feet, Detroit has little chance of competing with the weapons of the Packers despite being good in pass coverage thus far in the season.
4. Win the Turnover Battle
The Packers have been great at not beating themselves over the years. This season the Packers are plus-four in the turnover margin. On the other hand, there are only three teams in the NFC worse in turnover margin this season than the Lions -4 margin (Eagles -11, Cowboys -9, Panthers -5).
Combined, those four teams’ record is 13-23, it’s no secret that the teams that don’t turn the ball over win football games. The last thing the Packers want to do is give the underdogs life with silly turnovers. Cover up the ball and play fundamental football and the Packers will be in good shape.
Like I previously stated, the Packers are 5-1 after a bye week under McCarthy, and this is the time the Packers usually start playing their best football.
I don’t expect anything less this weekend.
The Lions are a wounded animal running into a buzzsaw in the Green Bay Packers. This is a game of two teams heading in very different directions. The Packers must win this game and start getting hot. I believe they do. The Packers go to Ford Field and put the dagger into the Lions’ season.
Packers 34, Lions 17.