On Paper: Lions vs Packers

It’s week four of the NFL, which marks the Lions’ last division road game of the season.  For many Lions fans, week three was Armageddon.  There’s no denying it was the worst game the Lions played this season, and yet they sit with a record of 1-2 (you can’t convince me otherwise).  Most fans did not expect much else after the first three games of the season.  Also, you have to consider that they’ve played without their starting quarterback for five of six halves this season.  Can you imagine how the Colts would be faring without Peyton Manning?  Or the Saints without Drew Brees?  Or the Steelers without…well, nevermind. 

Let’s move to this week, where the Lions play in a place they haven’t won since 1492 or something.

Lions Pass Offense (12th) vs. Packers Pass Defense (3rd)



Passing YPG

Passing Yards vs. Packers


Season QB Rating

QB Rating vs. Packers
















*Kolb +Vick

Err…off to a bad start.  Green Bay has held every single one of their opponents below their season averages in both passing yards and QB rating.  Their defense has been led by pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews, who leads the leagues with six sacks.  The Packers as a team, too, lead the league in sacks with 13 total. 

This is bad news for a team that has yet to really establish the run.  Packers defenders may have the opportunity to “pin their ears back” and just focus on pass-rushing.  Though the Lions have only been sacked five times this season (9th best), passing protection was clearly a problem last game and it cost the team their starting quarterback in week one. 

The news doesn’t get much better with Green Bay’s secondary.  Though they only have three interceptions on the season, they’ve allowed just seven plays of 20 yards or longer (5th) and have yet to surrender a passing play of 40 or longer.  The average QB rating allowed by the Packers is a measly 72.9, good for 8th in the league.

With the Lions still struggling to find an identity and crippling from injury (looks like Matthew Stafford and Nate Burleson will be out and Jahvid Best won’t be 100%), this is a terrible matchup.  Lions fans are dying to see a breakout week for Calvin Johnson, but I don’t think it’s likely that this will be the week.  Packers +3.

Lions Run Offense (31st) vs. Packers Run Defense (18th)



Rushing YPG

Rushing Yards vs. Packers

Opponent’s Season Avg YPC

YPC vs. Packers

















Things are definitely looking better here.  In almost every metric (Bills YPC being the one outlier), opponents have outperformed their running averages against the Packers defense.  The Bills, Eagles and Bears all had more rushing yards against the Packers than their season averages.

If the Lions are able to get the run game going, it could really help the previous matchup out.  It’s all going to rely on Best and the offensive line, though.  It looks like Best will give it a go, but I worry that his turf toe will really put a damper on his explosiveness.  The offensive line has struggled to consistently open holes for the backfield.  As noted last week, “[in week one] Best had four carries of 10+ yards and four carries that went for negative yardage.” 

The Packers have allowed just two rushing plays of 20 yards or more (11th) and have yet to allow a 40+ yard run, but I think this is the week they allow one.  I expect Best to have another terribly inconsistent game, but he’ll break one loose and that gives Detroit the slight advantage in this matchup, despite having the second worse running offense in the league. Lions +1.

Packers Pass Offense (11th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (26th)


Opponent’s Passing YPG Allowed

Passing Yards Allowed vs. Packers

Opponent’s Season QB Rating Against

QB Rating Allowed vs. Packers

















Once again, the Packers have outperformed their opponents’ season averages in every measure.  In other words, the Packers’ pass offense is likely the best that the Eagles, Bills and Bears have all faced.

One interesting stat from this year is through three games, Rodgers has only been sacked three times.  In 2009, Rodgers was sacked 12 times in the first three games.  Clearly, Rodgers has learned to get rid of the ball quicker and he’s still great at getting himself more time to throw.

Of course, this is terrible news for Detroit.  Their one and only strength of their defense is their pass rush.  They’d likely lead the league in sacks (currently 3rd) if it weren’t for roughing the passer penalties.  But if they are neutralized on Sunday, this defense will fall apart.

However, it’s pretty interesting how low Green Bay’s season averages are this year.  In comparison to 2009, they are averaging nearly 20 yards less per game through the air, and Rodgers’ QB rating is down 10 points.  Rodgers’ TD:INT ratio is a much worse 5:3 than last years’ 30:7.  All of that seems like great news for the Lions, but the table above seems to suggest this is more likely the result of the defenses the Packers have played so far.

I liken this matchup to the scene in “Fight Club” where Brad Pitt is just getting pummeled by the owner of the bar he is fighting at.  The only hope we really have is that our pathetic laughter will freak out Rodgers and he’ll just start taking knees for no reason.  The first rule of Lions defense is you do not talk about their pass defense.  Packers +4. 

Packers Run Offense (22nd) vs. Lions Run Defense (32nd)


Opponent’s Rushing YPG Allowed

Rushing Yards Allowed vs.


Opponent’s Avg YPC Allowed

YPC Allowed vs. Packers












39.7 (!!!)


2.1 (!!!)



This is the only table where no conclusion is clear.  The Packers performed pretty well in week one, but have yet to reach the century mark since. They outperformed season averages against the Bears, but I’d hardly consider a “15 carries for 63 yards” performance to be great. 

Obviously, the Packers were hit pretty hard when Ryan Grant went down in week one.  His replacement, Brandon Jackson, is averaging a measly 2.9 a carry and Rodgers leads the team with two rushing touchdowns.

This matchup is clearly a non-factor in this game.  The Packers have only attempted 75 rushes, which puts them in the lower third of the league, and they have yet to get a rush of over 20 yards.  Usually, this would mean a win for the defense, but I don’t expect this to have much of an effect on the overall game.  The Packers will likely be content with ~20 rushes for 70 yards, so the matchup is a Push.


The Packers come out with a decisive +6 advantage.  The key to this game is Detroit’s run offense.  If they can establish Best early, it can keep players like Matthews honest and allow Detroit to air it out.  I know that’s not what a lot of Lions fans want to hear, but if the Lions try to throw it early and often, we might be seeing Drew Stanton sooner than we hope (I’m hoping never). 

The other main factor in this matchup is Detroit’s pass rush.  The only way Rodgers can be stopped is if he’s effectively pressured and forced to make a mistake.  Rodgers has been more mistake-prone this year, throwing an interception in two of three games, but he can also punish you if he eludes the pressure.  The defensive ends need to create pressure, but can’t afford to be careless and let Rodgers escape the pocket.  Rodgers’ numbers will almost undoubtedly be huge, but if the defense can get sacks and force two or more turnovers, the Lions certainly have a chance to keep it close. 

Overall, however, too many things need to go right for the Lions to pull this one off.  A lot of the Packers’ advantages hit the Lions right where it hurts.  The Lions may keep it close early, but I expect the Packers to pull away late.  Lions 13 Packers 31.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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