For the first time this season, the Detroit Lions will play an NFC North divisional opponent, with it being the Green Bay Packers to start. Both teams enter the contest banged up with injuries and coming off of victories over NFC South opponents, with the Lions beating the Atlanta Falcons 20-6 and the Packers beating the New Orleans Saints 18-17. It’s also a battle for first place in the division as both teams are 2-1, with the Packers having a slight edge over the Lions as they are 1-0 in the division already.
This year will be different for both teams as the Packers have moved on from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and now Jordan Love takes over as the starter. The Lions will now have to adjust their game plan for Love instead of Rodgers and prepare for something different. Let’s take a deeper look at the Green Bay Packers in our Week 4 Detroit Lions scouting report.
Green Bay Packers
- 8-9 record ( 3rd in NFC North)
- 14th in points scored, 17th in points allowed
- Overall DVOA: 15th (12th on offense, 25th on defense)
Much like the Lions last season, the Packers had a rough first half of the 2022 season. With a 3-6 start and coming off a loss to Detroit at Ford Field, they needed to figure things out quickly if they wanted to appear in the playoffs. It started with an overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys and while the Packers would drop their next two games and fall to 4-8, they got hot and entered the season finale against the Lions 8-8.
Before the game, the Lions were eliminated from the NFL playoffs as earlier in the day, the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Seattle Seahawks, giving the Packers a chance to make the playoffs if they were able to defeat Detroit. Unfortunately for the Packers, the Lions weren’t going to roll over and give them the victory, as the Lions would win 20-16, eliminating the Packers from appearing in the playoffs and sending Rodgers out of Green Bay with a loss.
The offense struggled with consistency as Rodgers had his worst season ever, throwing for 3,695 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This was after having back-to-back MVP seasons and the expectations were high for Rodgers and the Packers. Running back Aaron Jones was the featured back with 1,121 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground while having 59 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns through the air. Rodgers had some new faces to throw to in the passing game and rookie wide receiver Christian Watson became one of his favorite options, finishing with 41 catches for 611 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns.
The Packer's defense was led once again by their linebackers with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary having 14.5 sacks combined, but Gary missed the back half of the season due to a torn ACL. The secondary saw some big plays from cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas who combined for nine interceptions and 27 pass deflections.
Key additions: S Jonathan Owens
Key losses: QB Aaron Rodgers, K Mason Crosby, WR Allen Lazard, WR Randall Cobb, TE Robert Tonyan, TE Marcedes Lewis, DL Jarran Reed, S Adrian Amos
Trade additions: None
2023 NFL Draft picks
Round 1: LB Lukas Van Ness
Round 2: TE Luke Musgrave
Round 2: WR Jayden Reed
Round 3: TE Tucker Kraft
Round 4: DL Colby Wooden
Round 5: QB Sean Clifford
Round 5: WR Dontayvion Wicks
Round 6: DL Karl Brooks
Round 6: K Anders Carlson
Round 7: CB Carrington Valentine
Round 7: RB Lew Nichols
Round 7: S Anthony Johnson Jr.
Round 7: WR Grant DuBose
The biggest discussion point for the Packers in the offseason was the departure of Rodgers. After some theatrics to return in 2022, he put on a show before departing and getting traded to the New York Jets for future draft picks in 2023. Rodgers wasn’t the only big name to leave the team as he was able to get Cobb and Lazard to follow him to the Jets to try and win a Super Bowl. The Packers losing longtime kicker Crosby also hurts them as he was with them since getting drafted back in 2007 and he was a reliable kicker, something teams take for granted until they don’t have it.
With Rodgers gone, the Packers wanted to invest in their new starting quarterback Love, and got him some weapons in the draft, getting two reliable tight ends in Musgrave and Kraft to replace Tonyan and Lewis. Then they drafted Reed, Wicks, and DuBose to replace Cobb and Lazard. The defense wasn’t ignored, though, as the first pick was linebacker Van Ness and in the fourth round, they got Wooden to help shore up their defensive front seven. With Crosby gone, the Packers drafted Carlson to try and be the next long-term option for the team at kicker.
Despite losing a lot of talent overall, the Packers got more help from the draft than in free agency, as their best free agent pickup was Owens who played four years in Houston as he was a full-time starter in 2022. The team got younger overall, which is good as the franchise is doing all it can to try and avoid doing a complete rebuild with Rodgers leaving. If things don’t work out for them in 2023 though, they could be forced to start rebuilding.
2023 season thus far (2-1)
- 8th in points scored, 12th in points allowed
- 12th in DVOA — 9th on offense, 10th on defense, 27th on special teams
No Rodgers, no problem for the most part in Green Bay so far this season. While the passing game hasn’t been electric under Love, it hasn’t been the disaster some predicted it to be. With Watson so far missing every game this season, other wide receivers have stepped up in his absence. Rookie Reed leads the team in yards with nine catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and Romeo Doub is tied for first in catches on the team with 11 for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Musgrave has 11 catches for 124 yards.
After dealing with the Bears with ease in Week 1 with a good performance by Aaron Jones, the team struggled to defeat the Falcons in Week 2, blowing a 12-point lead in a little over a quarter of time left in the game. The Packers’ defense allowed the Falcons to score in four minutes to cut the lead to five, then after a three-and-out by the offense, the defense allowed a field goal in just under three minutes to cut the lead down to two points. The offense once again went three-and=out, giving Atlanta six minutes to score and they did just that, making the game-winning kick with 57 seconds left. This forced the offense, who couldn’t get 10 yards in two straight possessions, to try and move down the field, and they failed at that.
Things didn’t look much better in Week 3 as the Packers were down 17-0 up until the fourth quarter. The offense struggled to get things going early on, but with 13 minutes left in the game, the Packers started to take control. Love found Reed and Doubs to move the chains and get the Packers in field goal range to make it a two-score game. Defensive pass interference penalties helped Green Bay tremendously on the next drive as two plays gave them 67 yards total. They would end up scoring in just a minute and 29 seconds, tacking on a two-point conversion to make it 17-11.
Reed and Doubs helped again on the drive, finishing with a touchdown pass to Doubs to give the Packers the lead. Despite two great stops by the defense in the previous two drives, the Saints moved down the field goal and kicker Blake Grupe missed a 46-yard field goal, giving the win to Green Bay.
Jordan Love to Jayden Reed is a ting pic.twitter.com/zm89p980W1— IKE Packers Podcast (@IKE_Packers) September 24, 2023
Key players ruled out: CB Eric Stokes (PUP)
Key players to monitor: RB Aaron Jones (hamstring), LT David Bakhtiari (knee), WR Christian Watson (hamstring), LG Elgton Jenkins (knee), CB Jaire Alexander (back), RT Zach Tom (knee), LB De’Vondre Campbell (ankle)
Like the Lions, the Packers are dealing with a lot of injuries currently. It appeared that the Packers let some of these guys miss Week 3 to help get ready for the short week ahead as this game happens on Thursday night instead of on Sunday. Green Bay is hopeful that Jones, Bakhtiari, and Alexander return, while Watson looks like he’ll be making his season debut as he has been dealing with a hamstring injury since August.
Tom and Campbell suffered some injuries against the Saints as they both left the game and didn’t return, so those injuries are new and something to monitor in the few days between matches.
The offensive line having three starters banged up is something to monitor as the Lions were able to get seven sacks on the Falcons last week with a healthy line. Going up against possibly three backups could be something the Lions' defensive line would love, but the last time they went up against backup offensive linemen (Seahawks game), their opponent relied on quick passes to eliminate much pressure on the backups along with the quarterback.
Biggest strength: Linebackers
With a new quarterback in town, the biggest strength has transitioned from the offense to the defense. While the secondary is an average one, the linebacker core is where the Packers do most of their damage. They have a few different types of linebackers as well, it’s what makes the group their biggest strength.
If you need someone to drop back in pass coverage, Quay Walker is your man, he already has a pick-six this season and also leads the team in total tackles with 28. You need a pass rusher, Gary is your best option and he leads the team in sacks with 3.5. No matter what kind of linebacker you need, this team has it.
The best part about it as well, is just how young the group is. While Preston Smith is 31 and Campbell is 30 years old, Walker at 23, Gary at 26, and Van Ness at 22. The future is bright with this group.
Biggest weakness: Offensive line
What used to be one of the biggest strengths in Green Bay outside of quarterback play, has taken a hit, and while injuries are a reason for this to be an issue, their run blocking hasn’t been as efficient recently. First, let’s get the injuries out of the way.
Bakhtiari has missed two games in a row due to a knee injury and didn’t practice at all last week. He could return this week against the Lions and the extra rest could help him. Jenkins missed practice all week and is expected to miss multiple weeks with a sprained MCL, an injury he suffered back in Week 2. Tom left the game early against the Saints and Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said “He’s doing better today, but we’ll give him up until game time to try and get it under control.” So with Jenkins most likely missing the game this week and Tom and Bakhtiari up in the air, this group could field three backup offensive linemen.
The offensive line has done well in blocking for Love, only letting him get sacked three times so far this season, but it’s the run game that is struggling. The team is averaging just 3.43 yards per carry and while they missed Jones for the past two weeks, nobody has really stepped up to the plate with him out. Running back AJ Dillon hasn’t had a noticeable performance, and the ground game might be called upon if the passing game is struggling under the pressure the Lions could bring.
Key matchup: Lions secondary vs. Jordan Love
Even though the offensive line for Green Bay vs. the Detroit Lions defensive line sounds big on paper, I think the Lions secondary taking on Love is the bigger story. This will be the first time the Lions get a long look at Love, as he has played against Detroit two times in his rookie season. In the first game, he came in for three snaps where he just kneeled the ball, and in Week 18 in 2021, he went 10-for-17 for 134 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in one half of football in a meaningless game for Green Bay.
Now, Love is the starter full-time and is attempting to take this team over. The Lions secondary has changed since 2021 and it will be a taller task for Love to try and overcome it, especially if he is down his number one option in Watson again this week.
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 1.5