Is Week 5 vs. Lions a Must-Win for Green Bay Packers?
However, there is no denying that the Green Bay Packers, who are 1-2 after their Week 4 bye and have yet to face a division opponent, will make winning the NFC North—and perhaps even a Wild Card—very difficult for themselves if they fall on Sunday to the Detroit Lions, who are currently 2-0 in the division and share a 3-1 record with the Chicago Bears.
If the Packers win on Sunday, they level off to .500 on the season, become the only team in the NFC North to go undefeated in the division and knock the Lions down to a 2-1 record against division rivals.
Meanwhile, the Lions look to win at Lambeau for the first time since 1991 and won't go down easily.
Is Week 5's matchup against the Lions "must-win" for the Packers?
Green Bay heads into Sunday with the edge in offense. NFL.com has the Lions ranked sixth in the league and the Packers third in total yards per game. The Packers are also second in points per game, while Detroit is fourth.
According to the tweet below from ESPN's Rob Demovsky, Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett returned to practice on Monday. Getting him back in the lineup against the Lions would be huge for the Packers, especially with corner Casey Hayward still sitting out. The second-string secondary that has let up over 300 passing yards per game this season needs to blanket Calvin Johnson, and Burnett will be key in helping them get back to first-team form.
Also, S Morgan Burnett, who hasn't played yet this season because of a hamstring, was back at practice.— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) September 30, 2013
Meanwhile, a Packers front seven that has allowed opponents to convert 40 percent of third downs will prepare for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to break away at any moment.
Perhaps what should most concern the Packers is the Lions' deconstruction of Chicago's top-10 rush defense in Week 4. Bush totaled 139 yards for an average of 7.7 yards per carry.
Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz has so much faith in Bush that when he fumbled with 3:35 left to go in the first half, rather than spend the rest of the half on the bench, Schwartz used him on the very next play. Bush emerged up the middle for 37 yards and a touchdown.
By the end of the game, the vaunted Bears defense had allowed 159 rushing yards. Chicago had only allowed 266 total through Week 3—100 of which came at the legs of Adrian Peterson in Week 2.
However, Green Bay is no stranger this season to surprising opponents with an effective run game.
Can a reinvigorated Green Bay ground game pound the Lions' 18th-ranked rush defense? In spite of Bush and Bell, the Lions have been averaging fewer rushing yards per game than the Packers (95.8 and 128.0, respectively), and Detroit's front seven has also been allowing more yards on the ground (110.8) than Green Bay's (93.3).
The 230-pound Eddie Lacy, having had the Week 4 bye to recover from the concussion he sustained in Week 3, continues to prove he can give Green Bay some life in the downhill game, while the swift, 205-pound Johnathan Franklin has 103 yards on 13 attempts, averaging 7.9 yards per carry thanks in part to one 51-yard run.
If Green Bay wants to give Rodgers the opportunity to match blows with Stafford, keeping Rodgers' receiving options out of heavy pressure by establishing a ground game is the way to do it.
Does the Packers' chance of making the playoffs disappear if they lose to the Lions this Sunday? No. But this team is too talented to head into Week 6 at 1-3, and Detroit's lead in the division, having beaten each of its divisional opponents once, would be difficult to catch.
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