Four Downs: Packers-Lions preview
Four Downs is back with a real game to preview. Let us know what you think about the game or anything else at all in the comments or on our Facebook page.
1. Morgan Burnett got a haircut over the extended break. It looks nice and, more importantly, it’s looking positive that Burnett will play for the first time this season on Sunday. With a receiver like Calvin Johnson, who’s had his successes against the Packers (his numbers last season versus Green Bay: 15 catches, 261 yards, one touchdown, one fumble lost), safety help will be important. Another performance like we saw in San Francisco, when Anquan Boldin had his way slicing through zone coverage down the field, and it could be another one-man show.
Just as important is Reggie Bush’s impact. With him either running or leaking out of the backfield in pass plays, defenses must account for his ability to turn any dump-off into devastation, meaning more space down the field for Johnson to work. Especially with wide receiver Nate Burleson sidelined (more on that in a second), these two are the obvious threats. That clarity probably doesn’t mean they’ll be any easier to stop, but those are the pressure points. A slightly-healthier secondary should help.
2. On the other side, Aaron Rodgers roasts the Lions. Per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers has thrown for 2,285 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions, completing 68.5 percent of his throws in nine career starts against Detroit. Those are pretty good looking numbers, and at home, after this early bye, there’s really no reason to expect a down game from the offense. The monstrous caveat being: the containment of Detroit’s defensive line.
Elsewhere, the Packers are getting closer to full strength. Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin will probably both see time, Jermichael Finley is cleared following his concussion against the Bengals, and John Kuhn returned to practice this week, too. Casey Hayward has yet to return from his hamstring injury, but that was more-or-less expected before the bye. Clay Matthews sounds like he’s healthy and ready to strike like the blonde missile he is this week.
Turnovers are always important, and against a Lions team that can be awfully generous in handing them out, it’s a category the Packers should win at home. Since 2010, Detroit has turned the ball over nine times at Lambeau Field (to Green Bay’s seven). Two of those – a Charles Woodson interception in ‘10 and Mike Daniels’ fumble recovery last year – went directly for touchdowns, and were massive in those respective, and close, games.
3. Okay, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Burleson’s car accident in late-September that left him with a broken arm and ruined pizza, the very pizza he was trying to save from sliding on the floor of his vehicle! Despite this twisting Hitchcockian level of horror, Burleson is thankfully okay, all things considered, and didn’t hurt anyone else engaging in this bit of distracted driving.
We’re trying to think of food that’d we’d take focus off the road for in an attempt to save from sliding across slick car seats made for storing humans, not delicious take-out. But if we’re being honest, probably anything short of a plain six-inch gas station turkey sub would garner the sort of panic one feels the moment you knock over that glass of red wine on the white tablecloth at Your Favorite Italian Restaurant.
But, off the top of our heads, here are some foods definitely (okay, maybe, as long as accidents are avoided) worth trying to save from certain car seat disaster:
– Asian cuisine of any sort
– Tacos, burritos, chips and salsa
– Ice cream
– Barbecued meats
Food cooked for you is simply too precious to risk losing, especially when you already drove somewhere to pick it up for gosh sakes. Our most primal instincts know this, which is why we can understand and empathize with Burleson’s pizza plight. (Though it was still a very dumb decision.) We can only hope this sort of food-in-car panic never ambushes us or you or anyone.
4. Speaking of panic, you leave for one week and Detroit leads the NFC North division. (Technically they’re tied record-wise with the Bears at 3-1, but last week’s head-to-head win over Chicago gives the Lions the tiebreaker right now.)
Not that the Packers would have a say anyway, at this point. For Green Bay, at home, this game is about not falling to Vikings-like depths this early in the season. Despite a slow start for some of the thought-to-be contenders (Atlanta; the winless Giants; San Francisco), the NFC remains ruthlessly deep, meaning the best way into the postseason is still via a division crown. And chances of claiming said crown can’t withstand too many losses at home to divisional neighbors.
There’s that, and there’s this pesky streak lingering over the proceedings: the Lions have lost their last 22 games in Wisconsin. This has been a long string of good tidings for, obviously, a long time. But these kinds of streaks worry us because everything dies someday and we just don’t want to be around for that sort of history.
Depending on what you think of the Arizona Cardinals (who edged Detroit, 25-21, in Week 2) the Lions should probably be undefeated heading into Lambeau. Make no mistake, the Lions remain self-destructive, dangerous to anyone within a 30-mile radius of them, themselves included. But Detroit, through their mistakes, continues scoring and sacking with the quick-striking urgency of a summer thunderstorm. They seemingly forget things, good or bad, easily.
They are massive and angry along the nightmare-fueling defensive line, superhumanly freaky in their offensive skill positions with Johnson and Bush jumping around and over folks. Matthew Stafford is well-suited to casually sling his way to the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing offense thus far, averaging 309 yards in the air per game.
It may still feel weird to be this concerned about the Lions, but they’re worthy of worry and, really, have been clawing at the Packers for a few seasons now, a few times only narrowly missing the fatal stab. Green Bay defeated the Lions by a combined 11 points in their two games last season, and have only beaten them by double-digits once since 2010 – a 27-15 Thanksgiving Day win in 2011.
The Lions are talented and predatory on defense and have probably heard about that 22-game losing streak as much as we have. By now, though, nothing about this team should really be catching anyone by surprise. Is a 23rd helping of a Lion feast too much to ask for? We hope not.
(For those just joining us, a note on the following scale: Ted Thompson is a tough guy to read with a sense of humor, a pretty good one at that, dryer than Nevada at noon. In an attempt to pay homage to his flat style of delivery, we will couple our pick with a 1-5 rating scale of our confidence translated into Thompson Confidence, which, we feel, is just as ultimately silly and tough to derive meaning from as choosing a score.)
Honorary Ted Thompson ‘I feel confident’ scale of confidence: 3 1/3 ‘I feel confident’-s out of 5.