On Paper: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers

Jonathan Daniel

The 8-4 Packers are likely headed to the playoffs once again, while the 4-8 Lions may be headed for another top 10 pick in the draft. The Lions haven't won at Lambeau since 1991. The Lions are doomed to lose this week, right? Not so fast, my friend.

The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991.

Let's just go to the charts.

Lions Pass Offense (1st) vs. Packers Pass Defense (17th)

Lions_pass_o_medium

The Lions continue to put up an astounding amount of passing yards, but their efficiency is merely average. They've surpassed passer rating averages of opposing defenses in five of 12 games, met averages in three of 12 and fell short of averages in four of 12.

The Lions rank just 15th in passer rating (85.2), 15th in yards per attempt (7.2) and 18th in completion percentage (60.9 percent). But there is some good news. Despite having the most passing attempts in the league (by more than 20), the Lions have only allowed 25 sacks (tied for 11th fewest).

To make matters worse, the Lions are now without their number two, three and four receivers for the rest of the season, with Ryan Broyles being the latest victim of the season-ending injury. Expect the Lions to rely heavily on their talented tight ends, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler.

Packers_pass_d_medium

Overall, the Packers have a pretty average pass defense. In terms of passer rating, they've held four opponents below their averages and four at their average, and four opponents surpassed their averages against the Packers. Five opponents have gained more yardage than they average against the Packers, but four of those five teams lost. In other words, those teams were simply trying to play catch-up.

Opposing quarterbacks are averaging a 76.9 passer rating (sixth), 6.8 yards per attempt (ninth) and 55.2 percent completion percentage (third). Also, the Packers rank fourth in sacks (34) despite Clay Matthews' absence for an entire month now.

So why is their chart not too impressive? Well, like the Lions, the Packers have not faced many elite passing offenses. However, looking at the previous matchup, the Packers held the Lions well below their averages. They picked off Matthew Stafford twice and sacked him five times.

Player to watch: Scheffler. In the past three weeks, Scheffler has seen 21 targets, which is more than the previous five weeks combined. With Broyles out, expect that trend to continue.

Advantage: Lions +0.5. The Packers' pass defense is a bit underrated, even without Matthews. But the Lions have started to hit their stride on offense. Unfortunately, injuries may impede this progress, and the previous matchup between the two teams worries me. I think the Lions will be able to move the ball fairly consistently, but the Lions cannot afford to turn it over or take drive-ending sacks.

Lions Run Offense (21st) vs. Packers Run Defense (15th)

Lions_run_o_medium

The Lions continue to sport an average running game. In both yardage and yards per carry, they've been held below average in five games, met averages in three and outgained averages in four.

The Lions are averaging a respectable 4.2 a carry (12th), and now they even have a few rushes of 20+ yards and ONE of 40+ yards. They still don't really have a home-run threat, but at least they didn't go an entire season without a big run.

Packers_run_d_medium

The Packers have struggled mightily in the past three weeks and overall are not that good. They've allowed 4.5 a carry (24th) and 10 rushing touchdowns (tied for 18th).

In the previous matchup, the Lions outgained their averages against the Packers, but not by a lot. Mikel Leshoure had one of his better days, tallying 84 yards on 19 carries (4.4 a carry) and a touchdown.

Player to watch: Joique Bell. I'll admit I was never truly sold on Bell as a replacement for Leshoure on some drives. But numbers don't lie. Bell is averaging 5.7 a carry, and while that number would likely drop if he had the carries Leshoure has had, Bell has made the most of his opportunities and has been of great value to the Lions.

Advantage: Lions +1. The Lions will need to establish the run to keep the Packers out of Stafford's pocket. They did a pretty good job of this three weeks ago, but they'll need to do better this week.

Packers Pass Offense (11th) vs. Lions Pass Defense (18th)

Packers_pass_o_medium

The Packers remain the cream of the crop when it comes to passing offense. Though not as electric as last year, Aaron Rodgers is still elite. He hasn't been held to a passer rating below 80 once this year, and he has surpassed his opponents' passer rating averages in all but one game this season.

The Packers are first in passer rating (105.6), ninth in yards per attempt (7.6) and fifth in completion percentage (67.2 percent). However, the Packers are extremely vulnerable in pass protection. They have allowed the second most sacks this season (39). Their situation is even more dire this week, as they will be likely starting undrafted rookie Don Barclay at right tackle.

Lions_pass_d_medium

Oh the Lions pass defense. A true enigma. In the past few games, it has been outstanding through three quarters, and anything but in the fourth.

Their raw stats are no less confusing. They rank 21st in passer rating allowed (89.7) and 20th in completion percentage allowed (63.1 percent). But they are 11th in yards per attempt allowed (6.9) and tied for 16th in sacks (27.0). Part of the problem has been Detroit's vulnerability for allowing big plays. They've allowed 10 passing plays of 40+ yards (FOUR last week), which is tied for third-most in the league.

Player to watch: Randall Cobb. The Lions have struggled with speedy receivers as of late, mostly due to poor safety play. Cobb had 74 yards and a touchdown against the Lions the last time the two met.

Advantage: Packers +1.5. The last time the two teams met, the Packers were held to merely 236 yards, but Rodgers had 2 TDs, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Packers were without Greg Jennings but had the services of Jordy Nelson. This week, it appears the roles will be reversed. I think the Lions will hold Rodgers in check for much of the game, specifically with their pass rush. But if Rodgers needs one drive at the end of the game, it's hard to imagine the Lions stopping him.

Packers Run Offense (20th) vs. Lions Run Defense (19th)

Packers_run_o_medium

The Packers have struggled to find a running game all season. They've only outgained yardage averages in four of 12 games and yards per carry averages in three of 12.

Injuries have forced the Packers to try a few different backs. And this week, it looks like they will sport a new one, Ryan Grant. The Packers declined to re-sign Grant in the offseason, but the injury to James Starks has forced their hand into bringing back Grant, who saw one carry in 2012 before getting cut by the Redskins.

Lions_run_d_medium

*******does not include that play

Only two teams have outgained rushing yard averages against the Lions, and only four have surpassed yards per carry averages.

The overall stats are not as kind to the Lions defense. They are ceding 4.6 a carry (tied for 26th) and have only forced 2 fumbles (tied for 30th). However, the Lions have only allowed seven rushing TDs this year (tied for 10th).

The Packers couldn't get much going last time the two met, gaining only 95 yards at 3.3 a pop.

Player to watch: Lions defensive tackles. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have been playing out of their minds lately. With a struggling offensive line, the Packers are going to have trouble holding these two in check. Fairley has been struggling with an injury but is still expected to play.

Advantage: Lions +1. It was the Lions' run defense that held the Packers' offense in check early and allowed the Lions to grab an early lead. I wouldn't be surprised to see the same thing on Sunday night.

Off Paper:

Lambeau Field. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. The Detroit Lions haven't defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau since 1991. Oh, and it's going to be nationally televised and probably snowing ...

Something to play for. The Lions, in midst of locker room issues and a 4-8 record, have little to play for anymore. I'm sure many would like to put the Lambeau thing to rest, but with all the mudslinging going around, it's hard to imagine that their heads are in the right place. Meanwhile, the Packers are desperate for a win (and a divisional win, at that) to keep pace ahead of the Chicago Bears.

Overall:

Whoa. The Lions actually come out with a +1 advantage. I think the Packers are a pretty good matchup for the Lions. The Packers' weaknesses (offensive line, poor run defense) match up well with some of the Lions' strengths (defensive tackles, emerging run game). Last time the two met, the Lions controlled the majority of the game but let things slip away in the end. And while I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it happened again this week (for the fourth week in a row), I actually think the Lions are facing the Packers at the exact right time. Lions 27, Packers 24.

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