Packers vs. Lions: 5 Big Questions for Thursday's Game

Michael KimbleContributor IIINovember 23, 2011

Packers vs. Lions: 5 Big Questions for Thursday's Game

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    At 12:30 on Thanksgiving, the Green Bay Packers will face the Detroit Lions, and while this matchup has been an easy win for the Packers in recent history, this game will likely be much more competitive than in years past.

    The Packers, who are sitting with the lone undefeated record in the NFL at 10-0, will have their hands full with an explosive Lions offense featuring Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and defensively, will be facing a stout defensive line consisting of Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Van Den Bosch and Nick Fairley.

    Last time the Packers played the Lions, the Lions knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game and won the game 7-3. The Lions are quickly becoming contenders in the NFL and will be determined to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs on Thanksgiving.

    Here are five big questions that will likely determine this game between the Packers and the Lions.

5. Will the Home Crowd Be a Factor?

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    Lions fans have historically been dedicated to their team, despite their disappointing performances throughout the past 50 years. However, with the Lions suddenly becoming major contenders in the NFL, Lions fans are excited and ready to rally for their team.

    Ford Field has become one of the tougher places to play as a result of the newfound energy that has been floating around this team.

    The Packers have commented that domes like the Georgia Dome, the Metrodome and the Superdome can all be loud, making it hard for the opposing offense to operate.

    Ford Field will certainly be electric when the Packers come to town on Thanksgiving to face a hot Detroit team, so it will be interesting if the fans will make themselves the 12th man on the field.

4. Will the Lions Get 'Dirty?'

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    In many of their games, the Lions have gotten in heated fights with the opposing team, whether it's the players on the field, or their own head coach. The Lions certainly play with a chip on their shoulder, and while this is understandable, it could certainly come back to haunt them in the future.

    Against the division rival Bears, the Lions were chippy, getting in fights with the opposing team and continuously making cheap shots and dirty hits throughout the game despite the fact that they were losing badly.

    Since this is a game that will surely be important to the Lions, I expect the Lions to play with a lot of intensity, which could cause them to get into more than a few fights on the field.

    While this may not have a major impact on their game, their style of play could cause them to get penalized throughout the course of the game, and too many penalties can always set a team back.

3. Will the Lions Defense Shut Down the Run or the Pass?

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    The Lions defense has had good games and bad games, but their biggest problem this season has been stopping the run. However, the Lions might catch a break if running back James Starks is out of the game, giving Ryan Grant the work load.

    However, stopping the run may not do a whole lot against a hot Packers passing offense.

    The Lions secondary isn't the strength of their defense, so the Packers passing offense could be in for another big day—especially with the way Aaron Rodgers is playing. However, in their last meeting, the Lions defense was able to shut down the passing game, even when Aaron Rodgers was on the field.

    Regardless, the Lions have had some holes on defense, whether it's against the run or the pass, so I do think that with they way they are playing, Rodgers and the Packers offense will be able to exploit the Lions' weaknesses on defense.

2. Can the Packers Defense Stop Calvin Johnson?

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    The Packers defense has shown some weaknesses as well. Their passing defense is among the worst in the league this year, as they have given up way too many yards and way too many points.

    This could turn into a problem for the Packers, as they will be facing one of the most dynamic receivers in the league in Calvin Johnson.

    The Lions passing offense could be in for a big day if the Packers defense can't contain Johnson.

    However, one strength of the defense for the Packers is forcing turnovers—particularly in big moments in the game. So if Stafford, who has thrown a few interceptions this season, is forced to make some mistakes by the Packers defense, this could make up for them allowing too many yards and too many points for the Lions offense.

1. Can the Lions Defense Take Aaron Rodgers out of the Game Again?

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    The biggest concern for Packers fans should be whether or not Aaron Rodgers stays healthy and upright throughout the game.

    Last time the Packers were in Ford Field, Aaron Rodgers was taken out of the game with a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the game and the week after that.

    The Lions defense have a very formidable defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh, but also featuring wily veteran Kyle Van Den Bosch and promising rookie Nick Fairley. Last year, they got to Rodgers early and often, and this year will be determined to repeat history.

    If the Packers want to get out of this game unscathed with a win, their offensive line has to put together a better performance than last year, because if they don't, the consequences could last longer than just one game.