To get ready for Sunday's game, I exchanged five questions with Devin Shanley from Acme Packing Company, SB Nation's Green Bay Packers blog. My answers to his questions can be found later over at APC, and his answers to my questions are below.
1. Following their win over the Detroit Lions a few weeks ago, the Packers went on to get blown out by the New York Giants and beat the Minnesota Vikings. Has anything really notable happened since the first meeting between the Lions and Packers in terms of how Green Bay is playing?
There haven't been any major differences in how the Packers are playing versus a couple weeks ago, but there have been a few subtle changes. The Packers running game has showed a bit more life, especially against the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers has also been a bit less focused on Randall Cobb, showing a bit more trust in Jermichael Finley (who is finally playing well) and Greg Jennings now that he is back in the mix.
2. What's the latest on the Packers' injury situation? Should the Lions expect to face Jordy Nelson, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and some of the other injured Packers this week?
This week the injury situation that the Packers face is the main story. James Starks looks to be lost for a significant amount of time (if not the rest of the season), with Ryan Grant brought into the fold to replace him. Jordy Nelson and Clay Matthews still look to be out. T.J. Lang (the Packers' starting RT when the two teams met last) looks to be out as well. Charles Woodson is practicing again, but most of the rumblings out of 1265 Lombardi Ave. suggest Woodson won't play this week. Things are starting to point to the return of third-year cornerback Sam Shields. Shields is one of the fastest guys on the team and had improved his play this year before getting hurt in Houston.
3. Considering the Packers and Chicago Bears are tied at the top of the division and Green Bay already has one head-to-head win against Chicago, do you think the NFC North is the Packers' to lose?
There are two reasons why I do think that the division is the Packers' to lose right now, first because the Bears are about as beaten up as the Packers and tend not to deal with injuries well (especially injuries to their superstars) and second because the Packers hold most of the tiebreakers. The tiebreakers are probably the most important part. Since the Packers hold more of the tiebreakers than the Bears at this point, there is much more room for error for the Packers than what the Bears have right now. Considering that the Bears have only won one of their last three with a struggling defense, it is doubtful that the Bears will be able to match the Packers win for win down the stretch.
4. It seems snow is in the forecast for Sunday in Green Bay, although it may be gone by the time the game starts. Am I alone in badly wanting a "snow bowl" type of game just for entertainment's sake? (Perhaps this is what a losing record has done to my fandom for the final weeks of the season.)
I would love a "snow bowl" type game. Those games are fun to watch on TV, but even more fun to be there in person for and watch in the stands. I have tickets to the game and that would make my night to watch the Packers in the snow.
5. I'm personally running out of optimism for the Lions, especially when it comes to them ending their losing streak at Lambeau Field. What would have to happen for the Packers to lose to the Lions on Sunday night?
The biggest key is winning in the trenches, which the Lions should be able to do this week. This means Nick Fairley has to have another game where he downright owns Evan Dietrich-Smith and Cliff Avril takes advantage of Don Barclay getting his first start. If they can control the line of scrimmage and pressure Rodgers then they can cause serious problems for the Packers offense. Similarly in the last game, the interior line for the Lions struggled to contain Ryan Pickett, which is just an odd thought since he's not really a pass rushing D-lineman for the Packers. The Packers have very little talent at OLB, so any pressure will come from the inside. If the Lions can shut that down then Stafford should get the time he needs in order to find Calvin Johnson in triple coverage.
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