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The Cheat Sheet: Stopping the run is Lions’ only shot vs. explosive Packers’ offense

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions game preview and prediction.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Aaron Jones has run for over 100 yards just twice this season. Once last week against the Eagles and once against the Lions in Week 2.

The common factor in both of those breakout performances?

Jones ripped off a 75 plus yard run.

While the obvious game plan for the Lions on Sunday is to stop Aaron Rodgers, Jones presents a challenge the Lions have struggled with all season—stopping the run.

Take last week as an example. The Bears went into that game as one of the worst running teams in the NFL, and if it weren’t for the Bears refusing to pound the rock in the second half, Montgomery might have been able to have an even better game than his 73 yards and two touchdowns.

So how do the Lions stop Jones? Especially without their best defensive linemen in Trey Flowers and Danny Shelton.

It’s going to be a mix of things, starting with better tackling. The Lions are currently the fifth worst tackling team in the NFL with 127 missed tackles on the year, including 17 missed tackles against the Bears last week.

The good news is the Lions did do something different in the second half according to defensive coordinator Corey Undlin.

“Went in there [at halftime] and had a great conversation, showed the things that we didn’t do well,” Undlin said. “Didn’t tackle very well in the first half. Didn’t really schematically get beat, just guys out of position. Came out of the tunnel at halftime, didn’t blink, and I think that obviously showed up in the second half.”

Hopefully, the Lions are able to carry that over into this week because they might not have the luxury of coming back against Aaron Rodgers, Devante Adams, and Aaron Jones.

The second way is to stop the run on early downs.

“When you’re playing [the Packers], when you’re playing Aaron and this offense, you’ve gotta stop the run on first down,” Undlin said. “If you don’t, you’re going to be behind the sticks...if they’re sitting there at third-and-3, third-and-4, and third-and-2 all game long, it’s going to be a long day.”

A long day indeed.

The Packers are fourth in the NFL in third-down conversions this year. Giving Rodgers a short down and distance will only compound that problem.

Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Opponent snapshot

The Packers could very likely seal a spot in the playoffs this weekend, and will probably win the division the second year in a row. They are quite clearly the class of the division right now and haven’t shown many weaknesses since getting beat by the Buccaneers in Week 6.

Since then the Packers have won five out of seven games.

Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Packers’ biggest threat

Aaron Rodgers

Not much to say here. Rodgers is playing some of his best football in years. He and head coach Matt LaFleur have built a chemistry that is starting to play out every week.

Green Bay leads the NFL with 31.6 points per game, and Rodgers’ efficiency has a lot to do with that. He ranks first in touchdowns (36), fifth in completion percentage (68.9 percent), and first in quarterback rating (118.5).

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Packers’ weak link

Run defense

I went and watched the Packers’ only other division loss this season, a Week 8 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, to see what the possible recipe for the Lions could be here.

In that game, Dalvin Cook carried the ball 30 times for 163 (5.4 per carry average), and three touchdowns. Kirk Cousins only attempted 14 passes. And the Vikings rode Cook all the way to a win

So while the Lions might be tempted to air it out for a second week in a row, it might make more sense to exploit the Packers in the run game. It’s the one real weakness left on this team to exploit.

Bottom line

The two Aarons (Rodgers and Jones) will be too much for the Lions. Expect a shootout as the Lions are forced to try and keep up with NFL’s top scoring offense.

Prediction

Lions 28 Packers 35