Six Points: Lions vs. Packers
Both ends of the NFC North will meet at Lambeau Field this Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers (6-2) — currently tied for first place in the division with the Minnesota Vikings — play host to the bottom-feeding Detroit Lions (1-7). Although the Packers and Lions reside at opposite ends of the divisional spectrum, both teams are coming off back-to-back losses and want desperately to pick up a win in Week 10.
Will Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers take advantage of the subpar competition and right the ship for the Packers, or will Detroit’s Matthew Stafford lead the Lions to their first victory at Lambeau since the early 1990s?
Here are three keys to the game for both the Lions and the Packers.
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1. Send Ezekiel Ansah after Aaron Rodgers all day
In order to knock off one of the NFC North co-leaders on Sunday, the last-place Lions must surprise the Packers with a vicious pass rush. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has the best chance to disrupt Aaron Rodgers in the pocket (seven sacks, tied for fourth-most in NFL). Ansah should look to continue a trend that has plagued Green Bay over the last two weeks; Rodgers has been sacked a total of eight times in back-to-back losses.
2. Find an offensive footing under Jim Bob Cooter
Jim Bob Cooter made his debut as interim offensive coordinator against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8, as the Lions mustered a measly 276 yards in a 45-10 blowout at London’s Wembley Stadium. Cooter has since had a bye week to regroup and get acclimated to his new role, so Detroit’s performance against the Packers should be a more accurate indicator of his potential as an offensive play-caller. Perhaps he can take advantage of a Green Bay defense that has allowed an average of nearly 500 yards over its previous three outings.
3. Target Eric Ebron often over the middle
The Packers’ biggest weakness on defense seems to be their underneath coverage. Green Bay has given up 11 catches to tight ends for a total of 177 yards over the past two weeks. Coincidentally, one of the few bright spots on Detroit’s offense this season has been the emergence of second-year tight end Eric Ebron. With All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson sure to draw plenty of attention outside the numbers, Ebron should be open all day over the middle.
1. Set the tone with a strong running game
The Packers made a bold decision this week, when head coach Mike McCarthy decided to move forward with James Starks as the team’s top running back over Eddie Lacy. In reality, both backs are likely to see plenty of snaps and their fair share of touches against the Lions on Sunday. They must make the most of those carries against a Detroit defense that allows 133.8 rushing yards per game (third-most in NFL).
2. Give Randall Cobb opportunities to make explosive plays
When Green Bay’s offense struggled against the Denver Broncos in Week 8, Randall Cobb took the lack of success personally. He shouldered the blame and responded with an explosive, 53-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers — his longest reception of the year. The Packers agreed to pay Cobb $40 million this offseason to make these exact plays. He should reel in another big catch against the Lions, who have given up 32 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season.
3. Ramp up the pass-rush and sack Matthew Stafford
Denver’s Peyton Manning and Carolina’s Cam Newton did not suffer so much as a grass stain in their recent games against the Packers. Green Bay’s defense couldn’t sack either opposing passer, and their offenses hummed along as a result. The potential is still there for the Packers to rush the passer (23 sacks, tied for fifth-most in NFL); they just need to find a way to get linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews going again. Both sack-masters have gone cold in recent weeks.