Lions at Packers: Five questions with Acme Packing Company

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Pride Of Detroit caught up with Acme Packing Company, SB Nation's Packers blog, to preview the Lions' matchup with Green Bay on Sunday.

To get ready for Sunday's Detroit Lions game, I exchanged five questions with Jason Hirschhorn from Acme Packing Company, SB Nation's Green Bay Packers blog. You can check out his answers below.

1. What is the feeling amongst Packers fans about Green Bay's 1-2 start? Is the thinking that they are better than their record indicates or is there real concern about the team going forward?

It's difficult if not foolish to judge a team after only three games, but that's exactly what fans often do. There's no more glaring example of this than the newly formed perception that Aaron Rodgers is a poor end of game performer despite evidence to the contrary. All of which is to say that many aren't thrilled about the Packers' losing record coming out of the bye.

However, there's a lot about this team to be excited about. After nearly pulling off the upset Week 1 in San Francisco, the Packers were the dominant team at home against Washington and again for most of the Bengals game. There are no "moral victories" in the NFL, but one can look at the tape from those games and realize how few adjustments are required for Green Bay to compete with the league's elite teams.

Overall, I'd say the Packers are better than their record indicates.

2. The Packers are ranked 28th in the NFL in opposing passing yards allowed per game. What has been the cause of the Packers' struggles against the pass?

Passing yardage allowed isn't always the best indicator of success or failure against the pass. When the opposing offense is behind late in the game, they tend to pass more often, and this skews those figures. Such was certainly the case during the Packers' 38-20 victory over the Redskins earlier this season. A better metric for judging pass defense is defensive passer rating, which provides a more representative picture of a unit's performance.

But you're correct that the Packers have struggled against opponents' aerial assaults. Heading into Week 5, the Green Bay defense has a rating of 113.7, far above the league average. It doesn't help that the Packers played two of their three games on the road, but that hardly accounts for such an inflated figure.

Rather, the more likely culprit is the void left by defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward. The pair is critical to the defense's success, combining for over 44 percent of the Packers' interceptions a year ago. Without them, the Packers have been forced to give extra snaps to M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo and Micah Hyde, all of whom are better suited to backup roles. Burnett should make his season debut this week, but Hayward's status remains a mystery. If either can't play against the Lions, it could be another long day for the defense. (Ed. note: Hayward has since been ruled out.)

3. The Packers' passing attack seems just as good as ever, especially with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley all putting up pretty solid numbers. Which of those four players should the Lions be most concerned about on Sunday?

This is the toughest question you've asked, as a compelling case can be made for any one of these players. James Jones led all players in receiving touchdowns last year, Jermichael Finley is a matchup nightmare and it wasn't that long ago that Jordy Nelson put up three scores against the Lions.

However, I think the answer to your question is Randall Cobb. He's the Packers' most consistent receiver and their most versatile. Lions fans will remember him most for his game-saving end zone acrobatics from last year's meeting in Detroit. Rodgers and Cobb have developed quite the chemistry on the field and can quickly identify defensive mismatches and exploit them. Expect Cobb to be targeted 10 or more times this week.

4. Because of injuries, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and James Starks have all received time as the featured back. Who has been the most impressive player at running back, and where do things stand from a health standpoint with these players?

Coming out of the preseason, the only Packers tailback who demonstrated much of anything was Eddie Lacy, a bruising rookie power runner. Surprisingly, however, it's been James Starks and Johnathan Franklin who have enjoyed the most success, as both have recorded 100-yard performances.

Starks hurt his knee in Week 3 and hasn't returned to practice. The Packers signed running back Michael Hill off their practice squad on Monday, suggesting perhaps that Starks' injury might be worse than originally believed. He's not expected to suit up against the Lions.

Because Franklin's success came most recently, he's my best guess for who to look out for come Sunday. Both he and Lacy will get carries early on, though. If Lacy runs well, it's absolutely possible Mike McCarthy rides with him the rest of the game.

5. Given what you've seen in the first four weeks of the season, do you feel like the NFC North is still the Packers' division to lose, regardless of their record?

While I believe the Packers are indeed the division's best team, it's totally premature to say the NFC North is the Packers' division to lose. Not only have they played only three games, but none of them have been against a divisional foe. The Bears look strong under new head coach Marc Trestman, and they haven't even hit their stride on offense yet. Detroit already has a signature win, and there are many places where they project to improve. The only team that looks aimless and out of the running is Minnesota.

Perhaps I'll have a better answer for you following Lions vs. Packers. A win for Detroit makes them the clear leaders in the division; a victory for Green Bay signals a return to form and their ability to rise above quality opponents at Lambeau. It should be a hell of a game.

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