Here are 5 things to watch as the Green Bay Packers face the Detroit Lions
GREEN BAY – Here are five things to watch as the Green Bay Packers face the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Packers didn't draft receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, so they'll have to keep covering him
Despite having his brother, Equanimeous, on their team, the Packers drafted slot receiver Amari Rodgers ahead of Amon-Ra St. Brown in the 2021 draft and it may haunt them for years. Rodgers was a disaster as a punt returner, a nonfactor as a receiver and was released midway through this season. St. Brown, who was taken in the fourth round, 27 picks after Rodgers, has been one of the best receivers in the NFC. He needs seven catches to pass Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson and New Orleans’ Michael Thomas for the most receptions by a player through his first two seasons. He has 100 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns and needs 64 more yards to break Calvin Johnson’s Lions record for most receiver yards in his first two seasons. The Lions will work hard to get him him favorable matchups. “He is a dog,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “His ability to win his one-on-ones, to make tough catches, to get YAC, he’s a scrappy dude. I think he’s got a great rapport with Jared (Goff), and they’ve made a lot of plays together.”
Lions quarterback Jared Goff has been efficient against the Packers
In five games against the Packers, quarterback Jared Goff is 3-2, including 1-1 while a member of the Lions. He has completed 80 of 127 passes for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions for a passer rating of 104.3. Goff didn’t fare well in a January 2021 playoff loss with the Los Angeles Rams, completing 21 of 27 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, but he wasn’t the only reason they lost. The Packers scored 32 points in that game. The best thing Goff has done for the No. 3-ranked offense is not turn over the ball. This season, Goff has gone eight straight games without an interception, his last a Jaire Alexander pick in the first meeting between the two. If the Lions don’t turn over the ball Sunday, they would tie the franchise record for fewest turnovers in a season (15). “I’ve seen Jared play at an elite level,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who coached linebackers for the Rams when Goff was there. “He’s playing very good right now. They’re not turning the ball over, which I think is a sign of a really good offense.”
Lions offensive line will present much tougher challenge than Minnesota's did
The Packers have made the most of their recent matchups against opposing offensive lines, dominating the Rams and Vikings and pushing the pocket regularly against Miami. This week, the task gets much tougher with a Lions offensive line that has the third-lowest sacks per play percentage (4.15) of any team in the NFL. The two tackles, Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell are both pass blocking extremely well and the middle of the line is anchored by left guard Jonah Jackson and center Frank Ragnow. Right guard Evan Brown’s best position is center, but he was inserted at guard not long after starter Halapoulivaati Vaitai was put on injured reserve. The Lions rank 11th in rushing and are No. 4 in goal-to-go situations in part because they can run power back Jamaal Williams behind a physical group. Against Minnesota, Barry used T.J. Slaton more at nose guard so he could get nose tackle Kenny Clark out wide where he can run stunts with outside linebacker Preston Smith. It may be the same again this week. “I thought our guys upfront the whole group, I thought they played physical right from the start,” Barry said. A repeat performance will be necessary Sunday.
What will the Lions do to keep the Packers from revving up their Ferrari, Keisean Nixon?
The considerable impact Keisean Nixon has had the past eight games means teams will need to figure out ways to keep the ball out of his hands. The Lions’ big-legged punter and kickoff specialist Jack Fox ranks second in the NFL in average kickoff distance and 75% of his kicks are touchbacks, but the temperature will be in the teens Sunday night and it’s not a given he will reach the end zone every time. Nixon is the only Packers player to have 90-plus-yard kickoffs in back-to-back games and his 30.0 average would set the franchise record (minimum 20 returns) if it holds. With another touchdown, he would be the first with multiple scores since Roell Preston in 1998. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said of how teams will approach Nixon. “You can put two returners back there and maybe they kick away from them. We’ve been through it before. We’ll have some resources we can hopefully use that way.”
Packers will be missing only two of the eight injured players from last meeting with the Lions
The first meeting between the two teams resulted in a slew of injuries for both sides and the Ford Field turf was blamed by many for much of it. Whether that was the reason, it was a devastating game for the Packers, who blew numerous opportunities in a 15-9 loss and had eight players who either were out or dropped out of the game. Inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (knee) didn’t play, and outside linebacker Rashan Gary (knee) and cornerback Eric Stokes (lower leg) were lost for the season. Receivers Romeo Doubs (ankle) and Christian Watson (concussion concern) were both knocked out. So was left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), running back Aaron Jones (ankle) and linebacker Krys Barnes (concussion). Aside from Gary and Stokes, the Packers will have everyone back. The Lions are also healthy. Center Frank Ragnow, who has been battling a foot injury for weeks, likely will play (he's listed as questionable) and they may get fullback Jason Cabinda and safety DeShon Elliott, a pair of role players both listed as questionable, back this week.