Lions vs Packers: 5 Things the Packers Will Want to Focus on to Beat the Lions
With the Bears playing the back-to-the-wall Vikings minus Brian Urlacher and Tim Jennings, there is a chance the Packers might be able to put a little distance between themselves and their rivals in Chicago.
Of course, the Packers have their own injury woes. Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson are a week away from being back, while Jordy Nelson's hamstring injury will probably keep him out this week as well.
The difference here is the Packers have already been dealing with the first two absences for weeks and Nelson, while a tough loss, can be replaced by multiple players.
Still, this is a game the Lions will certainly arrive hoping to steal, and while the Packers have the advantage on paper, they will approach this match as if they were playing the defending world champs.
Here are five things the Packers have to do to to come out winners Sunday night.
1) Hammer Calvin Johnson
Johnson is pretty much the last man standing in the wide receiver group. Whereas before you might have had to worry about guys like Ryan Broyles or, when he wasn't being difficult, Titus Young, now the biggest credible threat after Johnson is either drop-plagued Brandon Pettigrew at tight end or inconsistent Mike Thomas.
So the Packers can sell out on Johnson and let the rest of Matt Stafford's potential targets go to town because they aren't likely to do a ton of damage.
2) Get at Stafford
The pass rush minus Clay Matthews has not been strong. That said, if they can get in on Stafford, he will make mistakes. As good as Stafford's yardage totals are, he has struggled with consistency and accuracy all year.
Getting a hand or a body on Stafford will get him to ditch the pocket too quickly, which is usually when he makes mistakes.
He can still kill you, even if it's just Calvin Johnson he is throwing to. But Stafford is less likely to do it the more pressure you apply.
Also, they want to get at him early. When the Lions offense starts slow, it struggles to come back.
Get Stafford to have problem establishing his rhythm early and you'll have him pressing too much late.
3) Overload Chris Houston
The Packers have too much talent at wide receiver for the Lions secondary to stop every time. Detroit's best player among the defensive backs is without a doubt Chris Houston.
Without going too nuts and giving the secondary an easier time by having too many players in one spot, the Packers should have more than one player on Houston's side frequently.
Make him choose who is going to get his attention and make the safety who could help over the top choose between players he has to support. It's a good bet it will end up with a receiver in man coverage.
When the Packers and Aaron Rodgers see man coverage, they can exploit it.
Houston can only do so much—so make him do too much.
4) Keep Those Extra Blockers in
The offensive line is worse off than it was in the Packers' first win over the Lions, and so Rodgers will be under fire more than he was then.
Last week, the Packers adjusted by more frequently bringing in extra blockers. Those tight ends, running backs and of course John Kuhn all were super-effective in holding off Minnesota's pass rush.
They'll need to keep it up against the Lions.
We've talked about head coach Mike McCarthy's tendency to spread the ball when the pressure gets heavy, and I'm glad to see him get away from that last week.
They need to keep it up this week as well if they want to keep Ndamukong Suh and friends off Rodgers.
5) Get Cobb the Ball
Whether Nelson is out, this is just smart football. Cobb is a playmaker, and getting the ball in his hands as many ways as possible will only lead to good things for the Packers' offense.
However, with Nelson out, it's even more vital.
James Jones and Greg Jennings can stretch the field, and if they do that effectively, they will clear a lot of the underneath routes for Cobb.
In fact I'd love to see my third point combined with this. Have Jennings and Jones go deep, pull the defenders out with them and run Cobb underneath.
If it opens up right, he'll have a lot of room to run.
Cobb is the sort of player who can turn anything into a huge gain. So get him the ball in some open space and watch him go.
This should be an easy win for the Packers but it likely won't be, so they need to make sure they are totally on point in all phases of the game.
Still the defense and offensive schemes they run should put them ahead early and allow them to stay there. They'll want to score early, and often so that Stafford is forced to throw a ton.
The Lions should try to pound the ball, as they have very little in the way of solid receivers. More than likely, they'll lean on the pass.
When the Packers get ahead, their passes will become very predictable and more easily defensed.
The Packers are in a good position for this game, which comes before another meeting with the Bears in Week 15.
Follow me on Twitter at @andrew_garda.
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