The entire division feels like it’s been on a roller coaster through the first month. The Bears are out in front, the Packers and Vikings actually tied a game, and the Lions are dead last, but haven’t even played a division foe.
As rough of a start as it’s been for the Lions, a win on Sunday would go a long way toward keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Right now, Football Outsiders puts the Lions at about a seven percent chance of making the playoffs. The Packers, with a 2-1-1 record, stand at about 61 percent chance. The divisional match this Sunday could swing the Lions back into contention or bury them into NFC North basement.
The matchup to watch this week will be the Lions receivers vs. the Packers secondary. The Packers have spent the last two drafts trying to shore up a once depleted secondary. But they’ve allowed 874 yards through the air over the first month, 90 percent of which were given up in the first three games.
This means before they met rookie Josh Allen last week, they were giving up over 260 passing yards per game.
The Lions should be able to attack the Packers through the air. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay are the only trio of teammates to each record 50+ receiving yards in every game this season.
There won’t be many surprises between these two teams as they face off this week. The Packers still run through Aaron Rodgers, although their new-look defense under Mike Pettine took a big step forward last week, shutting out the Bills completely.
The Packers have been hindered with injuries the last few weeks and could be vulnerable in spots because of it.
Packers’ biggest threat
This almost goes without saying. Without Rodgers in the lineup, the Packers become a middle of the pack team. With him, they’re an instant playoff contender.
Rodgers is still nursing a sprained MCL, but he’s been gradually improving every week. The Lions’ best chance at containing him will be to create pressure up the middle. Forcing Rodgers to stay in the pocket rather than create off-script will be key for a Lions defense looking to get off the mat after last week in Dallas.
Packers’ weak link
The Packers are heading into Sunday with the possibility of missing three of their top receivers. If Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, and Davante Adams can’t suit up that will leave the Packers with a combination of J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
You can also expect a heavy dose of Ty Montgomery in the slot or out of the backfield, as well as help from Jimmy Graham. Although he’s also dealing with a knee injury.
None of that is great, but If anyone can make a cast of rookies look like all pros it’s Aaron Rodgers.
This is a true toss up game to me. Both teams have clear strengths and weaknesses. I have no logical reason to believe the Lions will pull this off, but the Lions tend to play the Packers tough at home and a win will give them a good feeling heading into the bye week.
Lions 22 Packers 20