This is a big game. I’ve heard many Packer fans try to preemptively soften the blow from a possible loss today by saying we could essentially use a loss to take the pressure off the perfect season. I disagree. Detroit is good and they could beat us if they play their best and we don’t. No question this is a possibility. And no, a loss shouldn’t derail our team (depending on how it happens and depending on if there are any injuries). But I think winning this one is important. We have played a relatively soft schedule this year so when we play quality teams like Detroit, it is our best opportunity to measure just how good we are. I hope we keep the pedal down the whole time today and take it to this rising team.
Aaron Rodgers will be one guy who will be fired up to play today. He got hurt last year in Detroit and it cost the team a victory as well as Rodgers being able to play in prime time at New England the next week. While I don’t think the hit on Rodgers was bad (Rodgers’ fault for not sliding), I think he has a bad taste in his mouth re Detroit and I imagine he wants go in there and score some serious points. I would guess he also felt somewhat embarrassed that the offense was sputtering before his injury – giving the brash Detroit D some bragging rights for this rematch in Detroit.
I’m not sure at this moment if James Starks is playing. I think part of the reason both he and (I’m sure not so quietly) the coaches are really hoping he can play is that Detroit’s vaunted D-Line is just not that great against the run. How bad are they? 27th in the NFL. This D-Line was built to rush the QB and they have lived up to that hype at least with the #5 pass D ranking. But I’ve watched several Lions games this year and have noticed that they are simply not a good run defense. (Remember that embarrassing game in Minnesota when The Vikes had the Lions beaten badly in the first half? They ran Peterson a lot and the Lions simply couldn’t stop him. Then in the second half the Vikes mysteriously abandoned the run and Detroit fought back to win.) The LBs are average in both coverage and stopping the run and their secondary is just not that good. Still, their whole defense it seems is predicated on pressuring the QB on pass plays. So when a team runs they aren’t good and when the D-Line can’t pressure the QB they aren’t good. While I’m not suggesting we run the whole game, I do think a good balance of run/pass will be a key to victory today – and a key to keeping Rodgers upright.
If Rodgers has enough time, which is a big if, Detroit’s D will struggle to stop our passing attack. Rodgers owns turf fields, especially in climate controlled domes. He is a California boy after all. Last week again, it seemed to me that Rodgers and the rest of the guys were really having trouble adapting to the colder weather as it was really the first cold weather game. Back in a dome this week, I see Rodgers getting back on track, spreading the ball around and having a success.
One massive factor for Rodgers today is that he needs to be extra careful re deciding when to run. Detroit has been unofficially tabbed a “dirty” defense. Whether deserved or not, this concerns me because at the least they have factually demonstrated that they are willing to hit late or make questionable hits. I don’t want Rodgers getting injured in this one because he chooses to run and gets nailed by someone. If he runs, they will nail.
Field position is always important, but it will be extra important in this game. While both offenses are electric and both defenses are suspect, forcing an offense to work a longer field could be a difference maker. And for a change, I can say confidently, we have the better punter for this and the better punt returner, so we should have a significant advantage.
This game strikes me as a game for a forgotten guy like Donald Driver or James Jones. Jennings and Finley always get attention and Jordy has been stealing the headlines recently. So in keeping with our offensive philosophy of having a different offensive star each week, I see the star this week being a different guy than we’ve seen this year. Detroit’s secondary has poor depth so Driver/Jones will be going against scrubs.
Today I think a lot of people will see just how good Matthew Stafford is. He can throw all the passes. It was interesting, the other day I was listening to Phil Simms talk about Andrew Luck and how it didn’t seem that Luck could throw all the passes. (Or at least he hadn’t seen him throw them.) Stafford can. He has touch passes, dump passes, deep passes and especially the feared fade pass to Calvin Johnson. He is a very good young QB – and to make matters worse he’s not a jerk or anything. Pretty nice dude. While I hope our D can force some mistakes, don’t be surprised if you start having an infusion of pessimism feeling every time he drops back.
We can’t defend Calvin Johnson too well – nobody can. My guess is that Woodson lines up on him a fair amount. Problem with that matchup is that Johnson is faster and can beat Woodson deep. But problem with Tramon taking Johnson is that Johnson can easily outjump Tramon for just about any pass.
Guys I’m particularly worried about are Kevin Smith (on screens in particular), Brandon Pettigrew/Scheffler and Titus Young. I don’t see Burleson being the guy to be worried about as I think Titus Young could be more of a problem.
Tough game to predict. I go back and forth between thinking this will game surprise and be a super low-scoring defensive affair (because there is a lot of pressure on both offenses heading into this one) – and thinking this game will be the high scoring kind of game most people expect. In the end, I go with something sort of in between – in part because I think there will be some defensive TDs. Packers 41, Detroit 31.