The Detroit Lions head to Green Bay for another NFC North contest, this time with the host Packers. This is another outstanding opportunity for the Lions to establish themselves as the team to beat in the division.
It will not come easy, however. The Packers have won 22 straight games over Detroit within the state of Wisconsin, and they have also won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams overall.
NFC North Division Standings
|Team||Win||Loss||Points For||Points Against|
|Green Bay Packers||1||2||96||88|
Detroit moved into a tie for first place with the Bears after beating Chicago 40-32 in Ford Field in Week 4. That victory gives the Lions the tiebreakers for both head-to-head games and within the NFC North, as the Lions are 2-0 while the Bears are 1-1.
Green Bay is coming off its bye week.
That poses a stiff challenge for the visiting Lions. According to Packers.com, Green Bay has some pretty impressive and formidable streaks in play after bye weeks.
- Coach Mike McCarthy is 6-1 coming out of bye weeks.
- The Packers have won the first game after the bye in each of the last four seasons.
- In 2009, the Packers thumped the Lions 26-0 immediately after Green Bay's bye week in 2009.
Here's how the teams stack up in statistical rankings so far:
|Rushing||Passing||Run Allowed||Passing Allowed|
Keep in mind those rankings are still pretty fluid because of the small sample size on the season so far. That is especially true for the Packers, who have played one fewer game.
If the passing statistics on both sides of the ball are any indication, we could be in for quite an offensive explosion.
Detroit suffered a couple of injuries in the Chicago game, as well as a pizza-related incident which impacted the depth chart by surprise.
The two additions to the injury list this week are the two starting corners. Neither Chris Houston nor Rashean Mathis finished the game against Chicago.
Mathis was examined under the league concussion protocol during the game after getting slammed into the turf. Even though he passed the concussion tests on the sideline, the Lions held him out as a precaution.
Jim Schwartz explained this in his weekly press conference, compiled by Tim Twentyman for DetroitLions.com: "Even though he was never diagnosed with a concussion we just thought it was prudent for him to not go back into the game."
He is expected to play against Green Bay, and as Twentyman stated later in the same piece, Mathis worked out at the team facility on Monday.
Houston is another story. Schwartz, as is his custom, did not go into any sort of depth on the extent of the injury. His status for Green Bay and beyond is unknown.
Schwartz buttoned up on Houston injury. Only saying leg injury. "Doesn't appear more than day to day, week to week. We'll wait and see"— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) September 30, 2013
It's tough to know exactly what that means in Houston's situation. Personally, I doubt he plays against Green Bay, but that is strictly my speculation.
Broyles played 41 snaps against Chicago, though he did not catch a pass. He is continuing to recover from a torn ACL last season. Broyles remains the Lions' primary slot receiver and will play extensively against the Packers, barring a setback during practice.
Edwards missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury. Schwartz gave zero information on Edwards. It is hoped the young speedster will be able to get back on the field to help replace Nate Burleson.
The veteran wideout will miss at least a few weeks after breaking his arm in the aforementioned pizza-induced car crash. Kris Durham picked up some of the slack in his absence against Chicago and figures to have a prominent role against Green Bay.
Jason Fox remains out with a groin injury suffered early in the opener against Minnesota. He will once again be replaced at starting right tackle by Corey Hilliard, who played very well against Chicago. Rookie LaAdrian Waddle will continue to serve as the top reserve tackle in his stead.
Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in the Week 3 win over Washington. Rookie Devin Taylor saw 12 snaps against Chicago as the primary beneficiary of the open reps. Willie Young played very well in Jones' starting role.
The Packers have the benefit of coming off the bye week. In their Monday practice session they still had a few key injuries.
#Packers practice: Burnett, Franklin and Lacy practicing. Still out Matthews, Hayward, Starks, Kuhn, Bush and Finley (who was present)— Wes Hodkiewicz (@WesHod) September 30, 2013
The Matthews listed is star outside linebacker Clay Matthews. He left Green Bay's last game with a hamstring injury. The Packers would sorely miss him if he is unable to play.
Casey Hayward has not played since injuring his hamstring in the preseason. He is the team's slot corner and has been replaced by Davon House. Fellow corner Jarrett Bush has also not played this season. The Packers desperately need at least one of them to be ready for Detroit.
Running back James Starks is recovering from a knee injury, while fullback John Kuhn marks yet another Packer with a bum hamstring. The team promoted Michael Hill from the practice squad, which Rob Demovsky of ESPN reports is not a good sign for Starks.
Rookies Johnathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy will handle the running back duties, as both practiced on Monday.
For an informative breakdown of how the injuries might impact the Packers, check out Tyler Dunne's piece from JS Online.
What Needs to Improve
The most concerning development out of the victory over Chicago was the lack of ball security. Detroit fumbled four times, losing two. Matt Stafford also threw an interception.
Green Bay is tied for second in the league with seven forced fumbles on the season, but remember that is in one fewer game than everyone else. The Packers have recovered three of those. Detroit must emphasize ball security in practice all week.
The return game continues to sputter. As I wrote on Sunday, the one outstanding punt return by Micheal Spurlock needs to be considered an outlier at this point.
Even though the Lions' average starting field position in the Chicago game was their own 43, that number is deceptive; the drives which began after kickoff returns started at the 18-, 17-, 16- and 20-yard lines. Two onside kicks and several turnovers created the field-position advantage.
For once, the penalty situation is not the lead in this section.
That's a very positive development, but it's premature to declare the endemic on-field disciplinary issues cured. Green Bay has brought out the worst in Ndamukong Suh before. Detroit must prove that the focus and self-discipline on display against Chicago is an emerging trend, not a fluke.
Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson did not have great games on Sunday. They were able to hook up just four times in 10 attempts. Johnson did catch a touchdown, but the Bears largely held him in check.
Stafford was wild early on, often using a high-powered .30-06 when a simple .17 rifle would do. His marksmanship improved as the game progressed, but against Green Bay the Lions can afford few misfires.
One of the bigger factors is another intangible.
The Lions showed they could snap inglorious road losing streaks earlier this year when they vanquished the Redskins in Washington for the first time in team history. That ended an 0-21 string.
The losing streak in Wisconsin is 22 games and counting. If the Lions are to end that dubious mark, they must show the same mental toughness and focus they had in Washington. Green Bay is an even tougher task than Washington. The talent is there to overcome the ignominy, but the mental focus and attitude must be strong as well.
All stats are from NFL.com unless otherwise noted. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffRisdon