Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions: Complete Week 3 Preview for Green Bay

Peter Sowards@@PeterSowardsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2014

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions: Complete Week 3 Preview for Green Bay

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    There's no such thing as a must-win game in September, but Sunday's contest between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Ford Field sure feels that way. 

    Both teams stand even at 1-1, with Detroit coming off a 17-point loss to the Panthers and Green Bay battling back from an 18-point deficit to defeat the Jets

    The Lions opened the season impressively enough in Week 1, throttling the Giants 35-14 in prime time. Sixth-year quarterback Matthew Stafford was decisively efficient, carving up the G-Men defense for 346 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.3 passer rating, averaging nearly 11 yards per pass attempt. 

    He came back down to earth versus the Panthers, however, needing 48 pass attempts to muster 291 yards passing, tossing one touchdown and one interception. 

    Rookie kicker Nate Freese, who went 20-of-20 on field-goal attempts at Boston College last season, missed a pair of 49-yarders on the first and fourth offensive possessions for Detroit. 

    Trailing 6-0 to start the second half, Stafford marched the offense on an eight-play, 63-yard drive, culminating with a one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jed Collins to give the Lions a 7-6 lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Detroit managed just 29 combined yards on the next five possessions and Carolina scoring 18 unanswered points.

    Turning the ball over three times is a quick recipe for a loss, something Stafford acknowledged to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press: "If you lose that (turnover) battle against a team like that with a defense like that, it’s going to be tough,” Stafford said. "We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities early on. We had some chances to score some points early and didn’t."

Packers Week 2 Recap

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    It's hard to imagine the Packers' Week 2 31-24 win over the Jets starting any worse. But with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, no lead is safe. 

    A 97-yard touchdown drive before halftime sparked Green Bay's comeback victory over New York, helping the Packers avoid the first 0-2 start in the Rodgers era. 

    After a Tramon Williams interception of Geno Smith's underthrown pass—thanks to Mike Daniels' gut pressure—Rodgers and Co. had 1:52 with which to work, trailing 21-9. Rodgers was 5-of-8 on the perfectly executed two-minute drill, adding an 11-yard scamper. He hit Randall Cobb for a six-yard score to cap it off. 

    Green Bay punted on its first drive of the second half. The next two were much more fruitful.

    Another Cobb touchdown reception and a successful two-point conversion put the Pack up 24-21. The Jets responded with a 52-yard field goal from Nick Folk to even it up at 24.

    With 1st-and-10 at its own 20-yard line, Green Bay looked for the big play and hit. The Packers lined up in 22 personnel (two running backs, two tight ends, one wide receiver), with Nelson as the lone wideout split to the right. Rodgers executed a play-action fake to Eddie Lacy, stepped up, eyed Nelson streaking down the sideline and hit the former Kansas State Wildcat in stride. Nelson made rookie safety Calvin Pryor miss, and he was gone for the decisive score.

    A fumbled snap on the first play from scrimmage gave New York 1st-and-10 deep in Green Bay territory just six seconds into the game. Five plays and 16 yards later, it was 7-0 Jets. 

    Stalling after one first down, the Packers punted away, only to see Geno Smith and the Jets offense sprint down the field for yet another touchdown. 

    Green Bay will need to clean up its tackling and assignments if it wants to stay out of an early deficit. Dom Capers' defense surrendered 180 yards and three touchdowns on New York's first three possessions, and Detroit's offense is far more potent, as well as playing with home-field advantage. 

News and Notes

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    Cold Freese

    Nate Freese is 2-of-5 with a long of 28 yards, and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the team has worked out three kickers: Rob Bironas, Alex Henery and Garrett Hartley. But, Freese will have at least one more week to prove his worth. "At this point, he's our guy," Caldwell said Wednesday, according to mlive.com's Kyle Meinke. "I think (he's) a young guy who has potential. But just like anything else in our business, it's performance business. And we all certainly understand that thing, and he understands it as well."

    Turkey Day Rematch

    Detroit obliterated Green Bay in the two teams' last matchup, a 40-10 Lions shellacking, giving the team its first win on Thanksgiving in 10 years. The Packers were without Aaron Rodgers, who was nursing a broken collarbone. 

    A More Versatile Clay Matthews

    With Capers playing both a three-man and four-man front, Matthews has played a variety of roles through the first two games of the season. He's lined up as a slot cornerback, stack linebacker, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, nose tackle and defensive end, reports the Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein. "I think I'm more than capable of rushing the passer and dropping into coverage," Matthews said. "Whether it's out of a 3-4, 4-3 look or whatever it may be, I believe I can do it and I believe I can do it to a high level."

    Bryan Bulaga Back? 

    After being inactive for the Week 2 contest, there's a chance Bulaga could come back by Week 3. He was a limited participant all this week, and coach Mike McCarthy says the team will probably make a decision after Saturday's practice. Bulaga suffered a sprained MCL in Week 1's loss to the Seahawks, and Derek Sherrod would start in his stead—as he did Week 2—if Bulaga can't go. We likely won't know until the inactive list comes out 90 minutes before kickoff, though. 

Injury Report

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
    PlayerPositionInjury Status
    Bryan Bulaga (knee)OTQuestionable
    Casey Hayward (glute)CBQuestionable
    Micah Hyde (knee)DBProbable
    Brad Jones (quadricep)LBOut
    Andy Mulumba (knee)LBOut

    *All injury statuses from Packers.com

    Hayward was a limited participant in Thursday and Friday's practice after not going Wednesday. He did not play a snap of defense Week 2 versus the Jets, though he did play his regular special teams snaps. Davon House was the third corner and Jarrett Bush the fourth in Hayward's absence. 

    If Bulaga is unable to go and Sherrod makes his second start at right tackle, he'll expect to see a lot of Jason Jones, the Lions' primary left defensive end. Jones totaled one sack and one quarterback hit in Week 2. 

    Mulumba, a special teams ace, suffered a torn knee ligament against the Jets and is lost for the season. The Packers did not make a corresponding roster move and thus will have 52 players available to play against Detroit. 

    Brad Jones will miss his second straight start. Jamari Lattimore filled in nicely for Jones last week, playing 59-of-71 defensive snaps and registering five tackles. Look for him to do the same against Detroit. 

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Packers pass defense vs. Calvin Johnson

    Megatron has fared well against the Packers secondary over his career, totaling 71 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in as many contests. He had six receptions on 10 targets in last year's Thanksgiving win, including a 20-yard touchdown.

    Green Bay has two good cover-corners in Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, though neither is suited to cover Johnson one-on-one. When the Packers blitz—and they will—Shields and Williams better hope the pass rush gets there before Johnson has the chance to stem his route. 

    Lions back-7 vs. Aaron Rodgers

    To say that Aaron Rodgers has fared well against the Lions in his career would be quite the understatement. In games the MVP has started and finished versus Detroit, the Packers are 9-0 and averaging over 29 points per game. He has 20 touchdowns (19 passing and one rushing) to go with just five interceptions, adding up to a 111.0 career passer rating against them. 

    And, it looks like Rodgers will be facing a depleted Detroit secondary, with safety James Ihedigbo listed as doubtful with a neck injury on the Lions' injury report. Fourth-year man Isa Abdul-Quddus will get the lion's share of work opposite Glover Quin. 

    Cornerback Cassius Vaughn has already been ruled out, and the team lost Bill Bentley to a torn ACL in its Week 1 victory.

    Packers inside triangle vs. Reggie Bush

    Though Bush's speed and agility allow him to work the edges of the field, he's most effective between the tackles and getting to the defense's second level. Green Bay has a soft inside triangle when Letroy Guion lines up on the nose, making life hard for Jamari Lattimore and A.J. Hawk. But, in a 40-front, Mike Daniels' penetration and Josh Boyd's girth can cause havoc on opponents' rushing attacks, especially for quicker backs like Bush. 

    Look for Detroit to utilize a screen game early to slow down the Packers rush. 

    Packers' X-Factor of the Week: Davante Adams

    Green Bay's second-round pick barely saw the field Week 1, playing just nine offensive snaps to Jarrett Boykin's 49. Week 2 was a different story, as Evans out-snapped Boykin 37-35 and outproduced him with five catches for 50 yards to Boykin's one catch for six yards. Adams is a good fit on the outside with his 6'1", 215-pound frame, and his route-running has come a long way since Fresno State. 

    Without a dynamic receiving threat at tight end, Adams has a chance to make his mark on this Packers offense. 

Prediction

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    It's hard to pick against Aaron Rodgers when he's facing the Detroit Lions.

    But, Green Bay's on the road, and the defense has struggled getting off the field through two games. Calvin Johnson gives the Packers fits, and a rookie center in a hostile environment going up against the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley does not inspire hope. 

    The Packers can help themselves if they get Eddie Lacy and the running game going. Keep the offense on the field and the defense off it, pulling defenders closer to the line of scrimmage and opening up the intermediate crossing routes. 

    I still think the Bears are the second-best team in the division. Until Detroit can eliminate the penalties that have plagued the franchise since the beginning of the Jim Schwartz era, this will continue to be Aaron Rodgers' NFC North. 

    Detroit can score, but so can Green Bay, and I never doubt Aaron Rodgers when he laces up The Destroyers.

    Prediction: Green Bay 34, Detroit 24

    Odds via OddsShark.com: Detroit -2.5 

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