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Previewing the Green Bay Packers: Are the Lions in for another shootout?

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Will the offenses take the stage on Sunday night or will the defenses step up in the big moment.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers played, the two teams combined for 61 points, the third highest total in any Lions game this season. Green Bay came out of the gate firing, scoring 31 points on their first five possession in the first half. The Lions, like they have so many times this year, mounted a furious comeback, but came up a touchdown short.

In the end, the two teams combined for 742 yards of offense and seven passing touchdowns. But that was just over three months ago. Have the teams changed that much since? Let’s take a closer look at the Packers.

Green Bay Packers (9-6)

Schedule so far:

Week 1 - at Jaguars - Won, 27-23

Week 2 - at Vikings - Lost, 14-17

Week 3 - vs. Lions - Won, 34-27

Week 5 - vs. Giants - Won, 23-16

Week 6 - vs. Cowboys - Lost, 16-30

Week 7 - vs. Bears - Won, 26-10

Week 8 - at Falcons - Lost, 32-33

Week 9 - vs. Colts - Lost, 26-31

Week 10 - at Titans - Lost, 25-47

Week 11 - at Washington - Lost, 24-42

Week 12 - at Eagles - Won, 27-13

Week 13 - vs. Texans - Won, 21-13

Week 14 - vs. Seahawks - Won, 38-10

Week 15 - at Bears - Won, 30-27

Week 16 - vs. Vikings - Won, 38-25

Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:

For as much press as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense gets, just as much of their defensive struggles get swept under the rug. Green Bay allows 24.3 points per game, which is tied for 22nd in the league. Football Outsiders ranks their defense 19th overall in DVOA and 20th against the pass.

In the past two weeks alone, Matt Barkley and Sam Bradford have combined for 744 passing yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs (97.2 passer rating) against this Packers defense.

If the Lions find themselves in a shootout, there’s a good chance they can keep up. The Packers rank 32nd in yards per attempt allowed (8.0), 25th in completion percentage (64.9) and 26th in passer rating allowed (95.9). They’re not quite as bad as the Lions’ pass defense statistically, but overall this offense gives up a lot more points. They have allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the league (30).

Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic:

The Lions’ pass defense seems to have taken a big step back ever since holding Drew Brees to his worst home performance in years. It comes at the worst time, because Aaron Rodgers is hitting his stride. In the past six games, he’s completed 69.8 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 118.8.

Jordy Nelson, too, is finally returning to form. In four of his past five games he has reached at least 90 yards receiving and over those five games he has five touchdowns. After a slow start to the season, Nelson now ranks sixth in the league in receiving yards, and leads the entire league in receiving touchdowns (14).

It looks like there’s suddenly a good chance Darius Slay can return this week after dealing with another hamstring injury, but whether he can be effective with that kind of lingering issue is another story.

Overall:

Since the teams last met, the Lions have tried to control the game with long, drawn-out possession on both defense and offense, limiting the scoring. However, the floodgates opened last week against the Cowboys and the Lions actually countered with a fast-pace, no-huddle offense for the first time in weeks. It’s hard to know which strategy they’ll try to use against the Packers on Sunday night, but I could see this game going either way. This score could reach 30s for each team, or both could be held under 20. Neither would surprise me at this point. However, I do expect yardage totals to be through the roof. The game will be decided by how the drives end.