Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions: Breaking Down Green Bay's Game Plan

Matt SteinCorrespondent IINovember 28, 2013

Clay Matthews is going to need to have a big game for the Packers to beat the Lions.
Clay Matthews is going to need to have a big game for the Packers to beat the Lions.Harry How/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers will partake in a longtime tradition this year when they take on the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

This will be the second meeting between the two teams this year, with the Packers winning the first by a score of 22-9. This time around, the Lions are in first place in the division and Green Bay is without a certain player named Aaron Rodgers.

Obviously, the loss of Rodgers is going to change the way the Packers attack the Lions. Here's a breakdown of Green Bay's game plan heading into Thursday's game.


The Competitive Edge


While Aaron Rodgers has returned to practice, it's unlikely he'll be playing in this game. That leaves Matt Flynn as the starter against Matthew Stafford of the Lions. While Stafford has his faults, he's definitely got the upper hand on Flynn.

Advantage: Detroit


Running Backs

There is no doubt that Reggie Bush has become a dynamic weapon for the Lions in his first year with the team. However, Eddie Lacy is quickly becoming one of the top running backs in the league. He's not as dangerous as Bush, but he's a more consistent threat.

Advantage: Green Bay


Wide Receivers

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is talented, but he isn't even close to being as good as Calvin Johnson.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is talented, but he isn't even close to being as good as Calvin Johnson.Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The only name you need to know is Calvin Johnson. He's so talented that he outweighs all the Packers receivers by himself.

Advantage: Detroit


Tight Ends

With Brandon Bostick suffering a concussion in Week 12, the Packers are down to Ryan Taylor and Andrew Quarless at tight end. As for the Lions, the combination of Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew is an extremely dangerous one, especially in the red zone.

Advantage: Detroit


Offensive Line

The Packers offensive line has really struggled over the past few weeks. That is likely due to the fact that Marshall Newhouse has been inserted into the starting lineup at offensive tackle. As for the Lions, their offensive line has actually been a strength for the team this year.

Advantage: Detroit


Defensive Line

The combination of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is one of the best one-two punches on a defensive line in all of football. Green Bay simply doesn't have a single player on its defensive line that is even as close to good as either Suh or Fairley.

Advantage: Detroit



With Clay Matthews finally looking like his elite self last week, the Packers linebackers could really become a strength for their defense. While outside linebacker DeAndre Levy is having a career year for Detroit, Green Bay still has the slight edge here.

Advantage: Green Bay



With each week that passes, it becomes harder and harder for any defense in the league to have a worse secondary than the Packers. Neither the cornerbacks nor safeties can consistently make plays for Green Bay. The Lions have a surprisingly large advantage in the secondary.

Advantage: Detroit


Packers Offense vs. Lions Defense

With Matt Flynn at quarterback, the Packers have a player who is comfortable within the offense and can lead the team down the field for points. That was the biggest knock against now backup quarterback Scott Tolzien. While he showed flashes of promise, he wasn't consistent at putting points on the board.

To beat the Lions, the Packers are going to need to put points on the board. For that to happen, Green Bay is going to need to have success in three areas on offense.

First, the Packers need to protect Flynn. With Don Barclay likely coming back (more on this later), the Packers offensive line should be much better than it has been the past few weeks. The real key to protecting Flynn will be slowing down Suh and Fairley. If those two players can be kept in check, the Packers have a real good shot at being successful on offense.

Eddie Lacy is going to need to have another productive week for the Packers offense.
Eddie Lacy is going to need to have another productive week for the Packers offense.Tom Lynn/Getty Images

Second, the Packers need another productive performance from the ground game. That doesn't mean Lacy needs to have another 150 total yards like he did last week, but if he can reach the century plateau in total yards, it'll go a long way in keeping things moving for the Packers offense and in keeping the Lions offense off the field.

Finally, Green Bay needs Flynn to perform at a high level. He needs to get the ball into the hands of wide receivers Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin so they can make plays. He'll also need to limit his mistakes.

As long as the Packers can do these three things on a consistent basis, they will put themselves in a position offensively to win this game.


Packers Defense vs. Lions Offense

On defense, there is only one name the Packers need to know this week: Calvin Johnson. 

The wide receiver commonly known as Megatron has been unstoppable this year for the Lions. In fact, the main reason the Packers beat Detroit in the first meeting is because Johnson didn't play due to an injury.

Johnson's overall numbers this year are otherworldly. He has 66 receptions, 1,198 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. In his past three games, Johnson has torched defenses to the tune of 19 receptions, 377 yards and four touchdowns.

The Packers cornerbacks are going to need to slow down Calvin Johnson.
The Packers cornerbacks are going to need to slow down Calvin Johnson.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The only way the Packers defense is going to beat the Lions offense is if it can slow down Johnson. Even if it takes cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields covering him at the same time, it needs to happen.

Outside of Johnson, the Packers defense could also have success in this game if it can cause some turnovers. As a unit, Green Bay has been terrible all year in this aspect of the game, but quarterback Matthew Stafford is prone to interceptions, and running back Reggie Bush puts the ball on the ground at times.

The combination of slowing down Johnson and causing multiple turnovers would almost certainly ensure a victory for the Packers this week.


Special Teams

If the Lions had a more dangerous kick and punt returner than Micheal Spurlock, the Packers would be in serious trouble. Over the past few weeks, the coverage team for Green Bay has simply been atrocious.

However, Spurlock has been neither great nor terrible returning punts and kicks, so the Packers shouldn't be too worried. As for the rest of the special teams units, the Lions and Packers groups could play big roles this week.

With this game likely being a high-scoring affair, field position is going to be a big factor in this game. The punter who can pin the opposing team further back will likely have the slight edge.


Wednesday's Injury Report

Wednesday's Injury Report
NamePositionInjuryWednesday's Practice StatusGame Status
Don BarclayOLKneeLimited ParticipationProbable
Brandon BostickTEConcussionDid Not PracticeOut
Johnathan FranklinRBConcussionDid Not PracticeOut
Johnny JollyDLGroinFull ParticipationProbable
Jamari LattimoreLBQuadricepDid Not PracticeOut
Mike NealLBAbdomenDid Not PracticeProbable
Marshall NewhouseOLShoulderFull ParticipationProbable
Nick PerryLBFootLimited ParticipationProbable
Aaron RodgersQBCollarboneLimited ParticipationOut
Sam ShieldsCBHamstringFull ParticipationProbable
Josh SittonOLBackFull ParticipationProbable
C.J. WilsonDLAnkleDid Not PracticeOut

With a number of surprising players showing up on the injury report early in the week, Wednesday's injury report isn't quite as frightening for the Packers.

The good news for the Packers is that it looks like offensive tackle Don Barclay, linebacker Nick Perry and cornerback Sam Shields will finally get back on the field. All three players have been missed terribly for the past two weeks and should be able to make an instant impact.

Some other encouraging news is that Rodgers participated in practice Wednesday. Even though it was only on a limited basis, it's promising.

The bad news mostly revolves around rookie running back Johnathan Franklin. He was injured in last week's game, and, according to Jason Wilde of, it's a serious enough injury to put him out for the rest of the year:

While Franklin wasn't doing much on offense, it seemed like Green Bay was interested in getting him involved on special teams. 

Overall, the injury report is quite a bit more promising than it has been in recent weeks.


The Packers Will Win If...

...Matt Flynn goes back to 2010 and breaks his own records.

It'd be easy to say the Packers will win if the defense shows up to play. Unfortunately, this is a defense that made Christian Ponder look like an elite quarterback last week. To think it has any chance at slowing down the Lions offense is simply ridiculous.

If the Packers want to win this game, they are going to need to score points galore. And for that to happen, Flynn is going to need to perform like he did the last time he started against the Lions. 

In that game, Flynn threw for 480 yards and a record six touchdown passes. While it's unlikely he'll be that productive this time around, he's going to need to have that type of game for the Packers to come away with a win.