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Detroit Lions Week 14 scouting report: The Packers offense is a big, big problem

The 2019 Packers were pretenders. The 2020 Packers are not.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, we all looked at the 13-3 Green Bay Packers as a team that was due for some serious regression. That wasn’t just the Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid talking. There were some real signs that Green Bay was extremely lucky in 2019 and would fall down to Earth this year. Their turnover ratio (+12)—which rarely stays consistent year to year—was unsustainable. Their record in close games was 6-1. And the offense looked pedestrian under new head coach Matt LaFleur.

Unfortunately for Detroit Lions fans, that regression hasn’t come. In fact, the Packers are now 9-3, and actually look like a 9-3 team. They aren’t sliding by with last-second wins. They’re blowing people out. Their point differential of +80 is currently fourth-best in the NFL.

So what changed? Why are the Packers suddenly the contenders they were pretending to be last year? And what does that mean for Darrell Bevell and the Detroit Lions this week?

Let’s take a closer look in our Week 14 scouting report.

2020 season thus far (9-3)

Week 1: Defeated Vikings, 43-34
Week 2: Defeated Lions, 42-21
Week 3: Defeated Saints, 37-30
Week 4: Defeated Falcons, 30-16
Week 6: Lost to Buccaneers, 10-38
Week 7: Defeated Texans, 35-20
Week 8: Lost to Vikings, 22-28
Week 9: Defeated 49ers, 34-17
Week 10: Defeated Jaguars, 24-20
Week 11: Lost to Colts, 31-34 (OT)
Week 12: Defeated Bears, 41-25
Week 13: Defeated Eagles, 30-16

Stats:

  • 1st in points scored (31.6 PPG), 15th in points allowed (24.9 PPG)
  • 5th in DVOA: 2nd on offense, 20th on defense, 26th on special teams

Last year, many were wondering if the Packers made the right call by hiring Matt LaFleur. Did Green Bay just fall for the latest young offensive mind that had a brief encounter with Sean McVay? Is Aaron Rodgers washed? Sure the Packers went 13-3, but we saw them get exposed by the 49ers (twice) and their offense finished just 15th in points scored. Rodgers’ passer rating of 95.4 was the third-lowest of his career. 2020 would only bring more regression, right?

Nope. The Packers offense is arguably the best in the league, inarguably a top-five unit. Just look at some of these stats.

Aaron Rodgers:

  • 118.5 passer rating (first)
  • 36 passing touchdowns (first)
  • 8.2 yards per attempt (fifth)
  • 68.9 completion percentage (fifth)
  • 94.7 PFF grade (first)

And the running game is just as electric. Let’s take a look at Aaron Jones’ stats:

Aaron Jones:

  • 75.4 rushing yards/game (fifth)
  • 5.2 yards per carry (sixth)
  • 7 rushing TDs (t-10th)

Turns out we probably should’ve been a little more patient with LaFleur. No team has scored more points than the Packers, only one team (Chiefs) is gaining more yards per play, and they’re third in red-zone efficiency. They truly don’t have any weaknesses on offense.

Defense is a bit of a different story. They cede a lot on the ground (4.6 YPC, 25th)—though some will argue that’s by design. They haven’t been particularly great against the pass either (7.4 yards per attempt, 23rd; 95.9 passer rating, 22nd), but I would call their defense below average before I’d call it bad. They still have playmakers in cornerback Jaire Alexander, and edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith.

Key injuries:

IR: C Corey Linsley, G Lane Taylor, DL Montravius Adams,
Current injuries: S Raven Green (shoulder), PR/KR Tyler Ervin (ankle), DT Billy Winn (triceps)

Given how deep we are into the season, the Packers are shockingly healthy. Though they suffered a few injuries against the Eagles, all of those players are role players.

The only aspect of the team that has been hit by injuries this year is the offensive line. They’ve lost Linsley and Taylor, their starting center and guard, but they’ve done a nice job of replacing them. They’re currently first in the league in pass block win rate.

Biggest strength: Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers is back, and likely in the front of the MVP debate right now.

Biggest weakness: Run defense

As I mentioned before, the Packers run defense is bad... but almost by design. They’re currently 25th in DVOA and they were 27th last year. Still, I don’t think the design is to be this bad. In fact, if you look at all three of their losses, it was likely their run defense that played a huge part in it.

Week 6 vs. Bucs: 35 rushes, 158 yards (4.5 YPC), 2 TDs
Week 8 vs. Vikings: 34 rushes, 173 yards (5.1 YPC), 3 TDs
Week 11 vs. Colts: 37 rushes, 140 yards (3.8 YPC)

So if there’s a blueprint to beat the Packers, it’s attacking the middle of that defense, and keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. In other words, cross your fingers that D’Andre Swift returns this week. Detroit needs him.

Vegas line for Sunday: Packers -7.5