A month ago, this Week 9 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions looked like it was going to be a shootout between two of the best NFC teams. After four weeks, both the Lions and Packers were 3-1 and heading towards another potential division-deciding season finale in Week 17.
But since then, both teams have crashed. The Lions, by their own hand. The Packers, via a devastating hit from Anthony Barr that left Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone in need of surgery.
Now the two teams are fighting for their lives in the first week of November. Let’s check in on Green Bay and take a look at this year’s Packers.
Key additions: TE Martellus Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, CB Davon House, DT Ricky Jean Francois, G Jahri Evans, OLB Nick Perry (re-signed)
Key losses: G T.J. Lang, RB Eddie Lacy, TE Jared Cook, C JC Tretter, DE Julius Peppers, DE Datone Jones, DB Micah Hyde
Key draft picks:
- CB Kevin King (Round 2)
- S Josh Jones (Round 2)
- RB Aaron Jones (Round 5)
2017 season results (4-3)
Week 1 - vs. Seahawks - Won, 17-9
Week 2 - at Falcons - Lost, 23-34
Week 3 - vs. Bengals - Won, 27-24 OT
Week 4 - vs. Bears - Won, 35-14
Week 5 - at Cowboys - Won, 35-31
Week 6 - at Vikings - Lost, 10-23
Week 7 - vs. Saints - Lost, 17-26
Reasons the Lions should be optimistic:
First and foremost, the loss of Aaron Rodgers is just about as devastating as a single injury can be in the NFL. The Packers are just 2-6-1 in games without Rodgers behind center since he took over starting duties, while Rodgers has a career record of 94-47.
Brett Hundley made his first career start in Week 7 and has only appeared in seven total games. His career statline leaves much to be desired: 31-59 (52.9%), 244 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs. While Hundley has now had three weeks to prepare as the Packers’ starting quarterback for the rest of the season, he has yet to show any tangible signs of why Green Bay should be optimistic.
Additionally, the Packers’ defense is decidedly below average. They rank 19th in DVOA, t-20th in points per game allowed (23), and 22nd in yards per play allowed (5.5).
They seem particularly vulnerable in the secondary, relying on rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones to play key roles on their back end. While both have played better than expected considering their youth, they are still vulnerable to making mistakes. Additionally, the Packers’ pass rush hasn’t been all that effective, totaling in just 12 sacks, fourth fewest in the league.
Reasons the Lions should be pessimistic
Hundley and the Packers have had two full weeks to gameplan and prepare for this game. Green Bay may have used the extra week to completely reformulate the offense around Hundley’s skillset and Detroit could be seeing an entirely new offense on Monday. It would be foolish to assume that Hundley is going to look as flat as he did in his first career start against the Saints.
Also, don’t sleep on the Packers’ running game. Currently ranked third in DVOA, the Packers can run with rookie Aaron Jones (averaging 5.6 YPC) or Ty Montgomery (3.1 YPC). Detroit has been mostly solid at defending the run, but these are two unique backs that Green Bay is likely to rely on heavily.
Finally, there’s always the challenge of playing at Lambeau. Right now, the weather forecast predicts temperatures around 28 degrees with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Add in a loud “Monday Night Football” crowd, and the environment isn’t exactly conducive for an easy win.
This is an extremely difficult game to predict considering how much of an unknown Hundley is. His professional career is too small of a sample size to really make any sweeping judgement and the secrecy of a bye week adds to the confusion.
Green Bay has flaws defensively that the Lions may be able to exploit, if they can manage to actually get the ball into the end zone this week, but Detroit has had issues all year offensively.
In essence, both teams have a ton to prove on Monday and whoever loses is going to have a very steep hole to climb out of for the rest of the season.