The early read: Packers vs. Lions matchups
Here are three of the defining matchups, one in each phase, as we begin our lookahead to Monday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit.
Packers offense vs. Lions defense
The X-factor will be Davante Adams’ toe. If Adams is healthy and can play at something close to full strength, he’d obviously provide a major lift to the offense. The Packers scored 34 points at Dallas even though their receiver corps caught 4-of-12 targeted passes.
If healthy, the Lions have one of the better cornerback trios in the NFL with veteran Darius Slay, high-priced free-agent addition Justin Coleman and budget addition Rashaan Melvin. Slay is a superb player, as we outlined here. Of the 116 corners to have played at least 20 percent of his team’s pass-defending snaps, Slay ranks 10th with a passer rating allowed of 57.5, according to Pro Football Focus. Coleman has six passes defensed. Take PFF’s grades as gospel or goofy, but Coleman is its sixth-ranked cornerback. Melvin, meanwhile, has been tested often but stood firm, allowing a mere 44.4 percent catch rate.
Lions offense vs. Packers defense
In one corner, it’s Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has riddled the Packers for nine touchdowns vs. no interceptions during Detroit’s four-game series winning streak. In the other corner, it’s a Green Bay pass defense that is third in interception percentage, fourth in opponent passer rating and 11th in sack percentage.
During the second half last week, Dallas’ Dak Prescott tore that pass defense to shreds. Prescott threw for 463 yards on the day. The receiver trio of Amari Cooper (11 receptions, 226 yards, one touchdown), Michael Gallup (seven receptions, 113 yards, one touchdown) and Randall Cobb (three receptions, 53 yards) combined to catch 21-of-34 targeted passes for 394 yards. Throw in a jet-sweep style flip to Tavon Austin, and Dallas’ receivers torched Green Bay for 407 receiving yards.
Stafford has a capable group of receivers in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and slot Danny Amendola. Jaire Alexander needs to bounce back in a big way, and Kevin King and Tramon Williams have got to play better.
The kicking game
Green Bay’s kickoff coverage unit gave up long returns vs. Denver and Philadelphia. It gave up another last week at Dallas, though a penalty got the Packers off the hook. Had that play stood, meaning Mason Crosby’s tackle would have counted in the stats, the kicker would have been tied for second on the team with three special-teams tackles. That’s not ideal. It won’t get any easier against the Lions. Jamal Agnew had a 100-yard touchdown in the Lions’ victory over the Eagles. Agnew doesn’t need much of an excuse to take one out of the end zone. On what will be an unusually frigid night for mid-October, chances are Crosby’s kicks won’t zoom out of the end zone.