Two Days to Kickoff: 2 Packers-Lions X-Factors

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – You know the main characters and themes for Sunday’s Week 2 game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. It’s Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in a battle of star quarterbacks. Ageless Adrian Peterson against Green Bay’s questionable run defense. Davante Adams against a banged-up Lions secondary.

Going just a bit off the beaten path, here are two X-factors that could play a key role in this rivalry showdown.

Packers LB Krys Barnes

Rookie linebacker Krys Barnes went undrafted out of UCLA and was released among the team’s roster cuts on Sept. 5. On Sept. 6, he was signed to the practice squad. Seven days later, he was in the starting lineup at Minnesota.

Barnes figures to have a key role on Sunday, as well. The Lions figure to run the football. They have three quality backs, led by 35-year-old Adrian Peterson and including Kerryon Johnson and second-round rookie D’Andre Swift. Moreover, top receiver Kenny Golladay might not play, as coach Matt Patricia takes the long-term vantage point with one of his premier playmakers.

If Detroit comes out running, that likely would thrust Barnes into a much bigger role than last week, when he played 15 snaps. 

Barnes was 9 when Peterson made his NFL debut.

“I definitely watched him as a kid,” Barnes said. “You watch his highlights and all types of stuff like that. To watch film now and see him, see how great of a player he still is to this day, it’s kind of a crazy feeling. But, at the same time, you’ve got to realize God has put me in a position to be here today as far as – as well as the coaches – and they trust me, so I feel like I can’t really think about that too much. Stick to my game plan and do what I’ve been doing all my life – just play ball, go out there, don’t make it bigger than what it is and after the game. I’ll probably be a little excited to see him or whatever and, hopefully, get a chance to meet him. But, at the end of the day, it’s just football and I’m excited to get back on that grass and still prove that I belong to be here.”

Lions WR Quintez Cephus

Quintez Cephus was a star at Wisconsin but plunged into the fifth round of this year’s draft after running a horrendous 4.73 in the 40 at the Scouting Combine. Last week at Chicago, with star receiver Kenny Golladay inactive, Cephus moved into the starting lineup and became quarterback Matthew Stafford’s favorite target. Stafford threw him 10 passes – by far the most looks for any receiver in this year’s rookie class. While he caught only three for 43 yards, he has Stafford’s confidence.

“He’s done a nice job,” Stafford told Lions beat reporters this week. “Obviously, I missed him on a couple, there’s a couple I’m sure he wishes he had back. That’s kind of how it goes when you have a young guy in there and you’re trying to get to know him and learn him, and he’s trying to learn the game without a preseason or any of that stuff. He did a great job. He’s a guy that came in Day 1 and was asked to do a lot, and he never skipped a beat.”

By the way, among rookie receivers in Week 1, Cephus caught 3-of-10 targets for 43 yards, Denver’s Jerry Jeudy caught 4-of-8 for 56 yards, Dallas’ CeeDee Lamb caught 5-of-6 for 59 yards, Las Vegas’ Henry Ruggs caught3-of-5 for 55 yards. No other rookie was targeted more than four times or caught more than three passes.

Register today or log in to access this premium article.