When Detroit travels to Green Bay on Monday Night, this has strong potential to be the most non-traditional game between these two teams, in what is their 184th clash, dating back to 1930.
This typically is one of the easier games to predict, but after Green Bay got its helmets handed to it last week, 38-3, against the Saints and with the uncertainty surrounding Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, this will prove to be anyone’s game.
The Lions were equally out of character in their season opener against San Francisco. Just when Lions fans might have thought, “Here we go again,” trailing 38-10 with 7:00 to go in the third quarter, the Lions roared back, and made a game of it before losing, 41-33.
So, which Packers and Lions teams will show up for this one?
Will the Packers cover the SI Sportsbook-11.5 points they are favored to win by?
Much of that answer depends on which Aaron Rodgers shows up - - and if his heart is in it this week.
Perhaps even more surprising for Green Bay fans than Rodgers' play was the play of its secondary.
Saints QB Jameis Winston did his best to make New Orleans fans forget about QB Drew Brees, completing nearly half his passes for touchdowns (14-of-20 for five TDs). Green Bay’s secondary should rebound against Detroit’s receivers.
Packers running back Aaron Jones was uncharacteristically quiet, with nine yards on five carries, and reserve back AJ Dillon produced just 19 yards on four carries, as Green Bay fell behind the Saints.
However, which Jones will show up Monday night? Will it be the Jones who gashed Detroit for 168 yards on 18 carries in Detroit at home last December, or will it be the Jones who only rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries at Detroit last September?
Perhaps that answer lies in studying the numbers of 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, who last week went off for 104 yards on 19 carries.
Expect Jones to get back on track against the Lions.
Detroit’s secondary is down starting cornerback Jeff Okudah, but even with Okudah in, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo was able to torch Detroit’s secondary at the intermediate route level.
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All eyes will be on Detroit rookie corner Ifeatu Melifonwu, who has been thrust into a starting role. Look for Rodgers to test Melifonwu early - - and for Melifonwu to have the answers.
Melifonwu showed a real physical edge at Syracuse and a knack for defending passes (19). Despite last week’s game by Detroit’s secondary, Melifonwu and fellow starting corner Amani Oruwariye match up well against the Packers’ scrappy receivers, Davante Adams and Allen Lazard.
The big surprise for Green Bay could be receiver Randall Cobb, who is back for his second go-around with the team. Rodgers lobbied hard for Cobb, and there was absolutely no synergy between Rodgers and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling last Sunday.
Cobb matches up well against Lions sub-corner Jerry Jacobs, but he will have his hands full against undrafted rookie corner AJ Parker, who has good ball skills and oozed enough confidence and swag to make Detroit's season-opening roster.
This is a big game for Rodgers in front of the home crowd, and he needs to perform well early, or the Lambeau Field boo-birds may drive him back to the bench on a more permanent basis.
Keeping things straightforward is key for Detroit’s offense. The Lions also need to better capitalize in their short passing game, as there were too many drops last week.
Lions QB Jared Goff should continue to go with what works, which is finding Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson (eight receptions in Week 1) and running backs Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift through the air. Williams and Swift accounted for a combined 16 catches.
It is ultra important for Detroit to get Williams going on the ground in his homecoming. Lions’ old-school head coach Dan Campbell needs to hand it off to Williams again and again -- specifically, 25-35 times. Not only will Williams set the tone with his physical and highly emotional edge, but he will also keep Green Bay’s offense off the field.
I do not expect Green Bay to cover. In fact, I am picking Detroit to pull off the upset. I do not like the direction Rodgers has been consistently trending, since he walked off the field in last season’s NFC Championship Game. And, I do like the resilience and fight that Detroit is showing.
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