GREEN BAY, Wis. — Five things to watch for in Sunday afternoon’s Week 5 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions:
1. How does Aaron Rodgers bounce back from a rare bad game?
There haven’t been many poor performances from Rodgers in recent years. Therefore, there isn’t much of a sample size to draw upon in determining how he responds to an un-Rodgers-like game. But after Rodgers had his lowest passer rating since Week 14 of the 2010 season, this will be a chance for him to put that game behind him. But against a Lions defense that is playing very well, it won’t be easy for Rodgers.
Last season, Rodgers wasn’t at his best against Detroit. Though Green Bay won both games, Rodgers totaled only two touchdowns and 409 passing yards. This season, the Lions’ defense is second in the NFL with eight interceptions.
The Packers found out how difficult it is to win when Rodgers doesn’t play well. Despite Green Bay forcing four turnovers in Week 3, Rodgers’ first multiple-interception performance since Week 7 of the 2010 season resulted in a Packers loss.
2. Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin splitting carries
When the regular season started one month ago, coach Mike McCarthy’s plan was for Lacy to be the featured back. This was proven to be the case in Week 1, with Lacy getting the vast majority of the carries. But after Lacy’s concussion in Week 2 gave a chance for Franklin and James Starks to play, both played well and it changed the direction that McCarthy is going with the running game.
As McCarthy stated in his Friday press conference, he now considers Lacy and Franklin to both be three-down backs. Though Lacy will likely start and take the most snaps, Franklin will be involved. However, if one of them steps forward and the other struggles, this plan could change again.
3. Stopping Reggie Bush
Multiple Packers coaches commented this week that this is the best that Bush has ever played in the NFL. Though Bush never lived up to his high draft billing, he’s shining in his first season with the Lions and has given Detroit a dual-threat offense that it hasn’t had in years.
Bush has already faced the other two NFC North teams and performed very well against both the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, rushing for 229 yards with two touchdowns.
If Green Bay can contain Bush and make the Lions one-dimensional, the Packers’ chances of winning will certainly increase.
4. Calvin Johnson unstoppable at Lambeau Field
Over the past three seasons, Johnson has had his way with the Packers. Between his 27 catches, 448 yards and three touchdowns in just three games, Johnson has dominated nearly any matchup or scheme that Green Bay has attempted.
However, Sam Shields has emerged as the Packers’ top cornerback. Though Bengals receiver A.J. Green isn’t quite at Johnson’s elite level, he’s still one of the best at the position and Shields shut him down in Week 3. With Shields matching him throughout most of that game, Green had only four catches for 46 yards — and Shields also made a great play for an interception. If Shields can have even remotely that level of success against Johnson, the NFL will soon be discussing the former undrafted player as the league’s next star cornerback.
5. Return game without Jeremy Ross
McCarthy’s plan on kick and punt return isn’t just to use one player to replace Ross. Randall Cobb was used on occasion in the first three games, and he’ll continue to factor in. But the Packers will also use Franklin and Micah Hyde. Franklin would be in the kick return role and Hyde would take over punts, but it’s all but certain that Cobb would at least take the key returns.