Lions vs. Packers: Keys to NFC North Battle at Lambeau Field
The Packers are 1-2 this season, but both of their losses were by six points or fewer. That includes a 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. After their bye in Week 4, you can bet they are ready to defend home field against the Lions.
Green Bay has won 21 of 24 matchups between the two teams since 2001. The Lions last defeated the Packers in December 2010.
Let's take a look at the keys to the NFC North clash on Sunday.
Pressure the Quarterback
Who will perform better on Sunday?
This is nothing new in the game of football, but when you have top-notch passers like Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, you better pressure them or they are going to burn you.
In the 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3, Rodgers was sacked four times and was hit eight times. He ended up going 26-of-43 for 244 yards (5.7 yards per pass attempt) while tossing one touchdown and two interceptions.
Detroit made Jay Cutler look mighty uncomfortable last week, totaling three sacks and six quarterback hits. He went 27-of-47 for 317 yards (6.7 yards per pass attempt) while tossing two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also fumbled after Ndamukong Suh sacked him late in the third quarter, which led to Nick Fairley's return for a touchdown.
On the flip side, Green Bay has totaled just seven sacks this season (tied for 27th in the NFL) while allowing 8.5 yards per pass attempt (30th). The Packers may be playing at home, but that won't mean much if they can't get pressure on Stafford. Stafford is having a solid season so far, ranked seventh in yards per pass attempt and eighth in quarterback rating.
You don't usually associate the Packers or the Lions with having a dangerous running game, but things have changed lately.
The Packers rank second in the NFL in yards per carry, while Reggie Bush torched the Chicago Bears for 139 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries last week.
Green Bay has been much better against the run than the Lions this season. The Packers rank ninth in yards allowed per carry, while the Lions rank 29th. That being said, Chicago held Adrian Peterson to 3.8 yards per carry in Week 2, then watched as Bush exploded in Week 4. Bush showed last week that he can sneak up on you.
Get On the Board Early
This is especially important for the Lions at Lambeau Field.
The Packers have won their last nine games at home. They also rank third in the NFL in first-half points per game (18.0). The Lions rank first in the category (18.5), but it's going to be much more difficult to rack up the points on Green Bay's home turf.
The Lions need to come out ready to buzz around Rodgers. If they allow him to sit in the pocket, he has the ability to put them in a hole early.
Of course, if they do pressure Rodgers, he could struggle.
ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Aaron Rodgers has a Total QBR of 15.2 against added pressure. His Total QBR was 82.7 against added pressure from 2010-2012 (led NFL).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 25, 2013
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