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Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: Preview and Pick
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: Preview and Pick
The Detroit Lions proved with a resounding win over the Chicago Bears that they are a contender that could easily win the NFC North title. After sitting out a week with a bye, the Green Bay Packers will look to show that they should also be under consideration. In what should be a high scoring game, these teams square off in one of the best games of the week.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Odds
The NFL betting line for this game opened up with the Packers as (-6.5) point favorites. So far there has been even betting action on both sides and this is most likely due to a combination of the big victory for the Lions and the home field advantage for the Packers. The line has yet to move and can still be found at (-6.5) at many of the top rated sportsbooks that are found right here at Bang the Book.com.
The Lions impressive win against the Bears sent a message to the rest of the league. The emergence of Reggie Bush as an added weapon to this offense has made the Lions almost unstoppable. The Lions scored 24 straight points, including three TDs in a span of 3 minutes, 26 seconds, after Matt Forte's 53-yard TD run gave the Bears 10-6 lead early in the second quarter. From there they held on to the win after going into what should be defined as a “prevent” offense. Now their offense will be compared to Aaron Rodgers and another high flying offense.
The Packers have lost to two very good teams in the 49ers and the Bengals but will be a deadly opponent to face after an extra week to prepare.
The latest football betting trends reveal that the home team might have the edge in this matchup.
Detroit is 5-15-2 against the spread (ATS) in its last 22 games when playing on the road against Green Bay and they are 0-5 straight up in the last five outings overall against the Packers. The total has gone over in 4 of Detroit's last 6 games when playing on the road against Green Bay and the total has gone over in 14 of Detroit's last 20 games on the road. Green Bay is 5-0 straight up in its last 5 games when playing at home against Detroit and Green Bay is 14-1 straight up in its last 15 games when playing against the Detroit Lions.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Pick
With plenty of time to go before kickoff, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
Calvin Johnson is the best wide receiver in football. Matthew Stafford is on the brink of becoming a top-tier quarterback. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are the most feared defensive tackle duo in football. The Detroit Lions are 3-1 this season and all four of these men have played key roles in the impressive start. However, none of those men are as important as running back Reggie Bush, who has only played in three career games for the team.
Midway through the Lions' 40-32 win over the Chicago Bears on Sept. 29, Bush broke off a highlight reel 37-yard touchdown run that had fans inside of Ford Field chanting "Reg-gie Reg-gie." He would finish the game with 173 total yards including 139 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Last season the Lions passed the ball more than any team in NFL history and were a pathetic 4-12. The lack of a running game made them a predictable, one-dimensional mess on offense.
Having played roughly two and a half games for the team, Bush has amassed 254 yards rushing, 179 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He has 59 touches this season and is averaging 7.3 yards per touch.
It's no coincidence that the Lions' only loss of the season came on Sept. 15 when Bush exited the game with a leg injury. Prior to the injury, Bush gained 69 yards on 12 touches and the Lions marched down the field with ease. Once Bush left the game, the Lions' offense fell flat and was unable to move the ball.
Prior to the season, there were concerns about Bush's ability to rush the ball consistently between the tackles, but thus far that hasn't been an issue. He's shown the ability to run outside and inside and has gained 13 first downs on the ground.
Not only has he stretched the field running the ball, but he is arguably the best receiving back in football. Whether he is catching screen passes or lining up in the slot as a receiver, Bush can't be ignored in obvious passing downs.
Because he has been so effective out of the backfield and in the passing game, teams are going to have to start paying more attention to where he is. Obviously that should open up more opportunities for Johnson to get open in the passing game. Johnson is averaging just 78 yards receiving per game, nowhere near the numbers we've come to expect from "Megatron."
But once teams start to focus more on Bush, expect CJ to start dominating opponents again. And that's where Bush's ultimate value lies; making opponents pick their poison. Either load up the box and stop Bush from getting in space or focus your coverage on Johnson and get gashed all day long.
Aside from helping Johnson, Bush's presence will continue to make Brandon Pettigrew and Joique Bell dangerous going forward.
As a franchise the Lions have longed for a game-changing running back ever since Barry Sanders abruptly retired. When they drafted Jahvid Best 2010 it appeared like they had the weapon the wanted, but injuries cut short Best's promising career.
Bush has a history of injury problems himself and he's already missed a game this season. But if the dynamic running back can stay healthy and on the field, not only will the Lions keep up their winning ways, they will have finally found the running back fans have wanted for more than a decade.
WR Kris Durham: T
he Georgia product received more snaps in the wake of the Nate Burleson injury and had one of the most productive games of his career, catching three passes for 58 yards and playing almost every snap Sunday for the Lions. As long as Burleson remains out, Durham will continue to be a long, reliable target for another former Georgia player, Matthew Stafford.
PR Micheal Spurlock:
Spurlock finally received a chance to break off a long return on Sunday, going 57 yards -- easily his longest return of the season. Considering some of the struggles he had getting going earlier this year, that’s a big boost for his confidence.
TE Brandon Pettigrew:
Detroit’s starting tight end had a strong, confidence-building day Sunday. He caught all seven passes thrown to him and actually had room to maneuver off of the line of scrimmage, a rarity for him this year. If he can display that type of pass-catching ability as consistently as he has in the past, he would add a dynamic short-yardage option to the already-potent Detroit offense.
Other than the defensive line, the most powerful group on the Lions’ defense has been their two safeties -- Louis Delmas and Glover Quin. Neither player practiced Wednesday (for Delmas, that’s typical, for Quin, not sure yet) but they were good breaking on the ball against Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. If Detroit can receive that type of production over the top as it does pressuring the quarterback, the Lions' defense will be really difficult to beat.
TE Joseph Fauria:
It isn’t the lack of catches Fauria had Sunday that is concerning. It is more the absence of any targets. Some of that likely had to do with Detroit often scoring from outside the red zone and Fauria is mostly a red zone target right now. But with Burleson out, it appeared to be an opportunity for Fauria to add more to the offense. But he did not. That said, he is at a pace of scoring a touchdown every other game, so he is due Sunday. His role, perhaps more than anyone else in Detroit’s offense, appears to be a week-to-week scenario.
The KR Spurlock:
While he got a boost returning punts, his kick-return decisions were not as good. He took the ball out of the end zone three times on returns and didn’t reach the 20-yard line once. When you’re pulling the ball out of the end zone instead of taking the touchback, you have to at least break net even for it to be close to a success. That didn’t happen for Spurlock on Sunday.
Rashean Mathis practiced Wednesday, but fellow cornerback Chris Houston did not. This injury is something to pay attention to throughout the week, because the Lions will need a healthy Houston against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his corps of receivers.
The Green Bay Packers didn’t sign another kick returner to replace Jeremy Ross, who was released last week.
But now there’s an intriguing prospect on the practice squad.
Though it doesn’t solve the Packers’ return problems for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, the signing of rookie receiver Reggie Dunn to the practice squad on Monday might help the return game in weeks to come.
The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Dunn was a first-team All-Pac 12 kick returner at the University of Utah last season, when he averaged a whopping 51.3 yards per return on 10 kickoffs, four of which he returned for touchdowns (including two in one game against Cal). What’s more, he might be the fastest player in the Packers’ locker room. He said that during his pro day workout, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds and again in 4.26 seconds.
Dunn, who spent the preseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers after signing as an undrafted free agent, worked out for the Packers on Monday morning and was signed to the practice squad shortly thereafter.
“Hopefully as the weeks go by, I can impress some of the coaches and show I can be a help to the team and help the team win games,” Dunn said. “But as of right now, I’m on the practice squad. I just got here. The only thing I can do is work hard every day, try to bond with some of the guys and work hard and play my role on the practice squad.”
At this point, with the Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in kick return average, they might be willing to try anything.
But where does that leave the Packers for Sunday’s game against the Lions? That’s been the question since the Packers cut Ross after he fumbled a kickoff against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.
The Packers will have to decide whether to use receiver Randall Cobb on returns. Cobb, who has three special-teams touchdowns the past two seasons combined, has not been the primary return man since late last season, when Ross took over.
“The return game is something that really will take the week to work through,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “We have some candidates. Whether Randall will do it or won’t do it, we’ll let the week play that out. It’s a focus. It’s been a focus since we made the change.”
For what it’s worth, Cobb was listed as the No. 1 kick returner and punt returner on the team’s latest depth chart released on Tuesday.
However, given Cobb’s importance on offense -- he leads the team in receptions (21) and receiving yards (290) -- and the fact that the Packers have only four receivers on their roster, they might be hesitant to put him back on full-time return duty.
That would leave rookie running back Johnathan Franklin as the most likely candidate to return kickoffs and rookie cornerback Micah Hyde as the possible punt returner.
“Nothing’s changed so far,” Cobb said. “I’m still practicing the same way I’ve been practicing, the way I’ve practiced all through OTAs, all through training camp, as a returner. We don’t know for certain what the deal’s going to be. In this business, anything can change. It’s a lot of time before the game, so we don’t know what it’s going to be when the time comes. As of right now, I’ve got to prepare myself for me being that guy.”
If the Green Bay Packers were counting on last week’s bye to cure all of their injured players, they were probably disappointed.
When the team returned to practice following its week off, there were still six players sidelined.
•CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring)
•CB Casey Hayward (hamstring)
•FB John Kuhn (hamstring)
•RB James Starks (knee)
•OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring)
•TE Jermichael Finley (concussion)
However, running backs Eddie Lacy (who has been out since he sustained a concussion in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins) and Johnathan Franklin (who sustained a foot injury late in the Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals) both were practicing on Monday.
So was safety Morgan Burnett, who has yet to play this season because of the hamstring injury he sustained in the preseason.
In a sign that perhaps Starks’ knee injury might keep him out for a while, the Packers promoted rookie running back Michael Hill from the practice squad shortly before Monday’s practice. He took the roster spot that came open when the Packers released receiver/kick returner Jeremy Ross last Monday.
Reggie Bush has played at Lambeau Field once in his NFL career, in his second-ever game, and as he recalls that experience now, Bush can hardly remember the running back he was.
He carried six times, gained 5 yards and knew nothing about the position he has played most of his life.
“It was a very, very humbling experience because I was trying to outrun everybody to the sideline, I wasn’t reading the hole at all, I wasn’t reading defenses at all,” Bush said. “I was just out there playing, trying to be a playmaker, and now when I look back, I’m so much more advanced and just my vision, my understanding of schemes, linebackers, where they have to play their gaps and just all the different things that come along with being a running back.
“It’s taken awhile. It didn’t happen overnight, and it took a couple years. I would say it took probably a good four or five years before I really had a true, good understanding of just defenses and schemes and how to run the ball as a running back.”
Bush said he started to grasp the intricacies of the position right around the time he won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 season.
Two years later, Bush had the first 1,000-yard season of his career with the Miami Dolphins, and now he’s on pace for his best season yet as a Detroit Lion.
In 2½ games — he suffered a sprained knee late in the first half of a Week 2 loss to Arizona and sat out the following week’s win over Washington — Bush has rushed for 254 yards and one touchdown. Using his 84.7-yard average, he’s on pace for 1,270 yards rushing this season.
Only six players ran for more in the NFL last year, and Bush said “it would definitely mean something special” to top 1,000 yards for the second time in his career.
“I look forward to accomplishing that, and I think we’ll do that pretty easy here with the way we run the ball,” Bush said. “It shouldn’t be too hard. But like I said, I’ve got to focus on this next game.”
The Lions haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Kevin Jones in 2004 and are running the ball better than at any time in the Jim Schwartz era thanks to Bush, having Calvin Johnson at receiver and an offensive line that has become more physical as it has gotten younger.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bush did most of his damage in last week’s 18-carry, 139-yard game against the Chicago Bears running behind rookie right guard Larry Warford.
Warford is one of three new faces on an offensive line that features four players younger than 30. Center Dominic Raiola, the old man of the group at 34, added 15 pounds this off-season to get more push inside.
“We felt pretty confident going into training camp that we had the right ingredients there,” Schwartz said. “We had good competition in training camp. We looked like we had a little more depth. We even cut some guys that I think could contribute. So I really like where those guys are.
“They protected well, they’ve also opened up some good holes in the running game. Rightfully so, a lot’s made of Reggie and the yards he’s gotten and the big plays he’s got, but there’s a lot of times he’s into the secondary without getting touched, and that’s credit to the offensive line.”
Bush, who became more of a pure running back during two seasons in Miami after playing a multidimensional role in New Orleans, said it’s a credit to Johnson, too.
Though Johnson’s numbers are well off his NFL-record pace from a season ago, he demands so much attention from opposing defenses Bush has often run against six-man fronts.
That’s something Bush saw as his career progressed in New Orleans, though he didn’t always know how to take advantage of it.
In Miami, Bush said he learned to run with more patience and the value of setting up defenders with a head turn or his footwork, and the Lions are reaping the benefits now.
“We really can’t worry about what pace anybody’s on,” Schwartz said. “But it has shown well, the combination of him and what defenses do. The plays that Reggie has made have been because of the attention that Calvin has gotten and eventually teams are going to have to loosen up on Calvin or Reggie’s going to continue to have big days like that. That’s a good position to be in offensively.”
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson hasn't been very good to coach Mike McCarthy when it comes to stocking the roster with running backs.
From 2006 through 2012, Thompson only spent four of his 65 draft selections on halfbacks and of that group none was taken in the first round and two were taken after the fifth round.
After taking Brandon Jackson in the second round in 2007, he didn't pluck a halfback out of the draft until James Starks was taken in the sixth round three years later. In between the selection of Jackson and Starks, Thompson drafted 30 players.
He went just three picks after that before selecting Hawaii's Alex Green in the third round in'11, but it was another 16 picks before he chose Alabama's Eddie Lacy in the second round this past April. He followed up that selection with UCLA's Johnathan Franklin two rounds later.
Now, three games into the season, the Packers are running the ball as well as they ever have under McCarthy, ranking second in the NFL in average per carry at 5.3 yards and ninth in rushing yards per game at 128.0.
Thanks to a revived Starks and the contribution of the two rookies, people are taking notice of a feature of their game that previously had been ignored.
"They ran the ball very well against Cincinnati," said Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, whose team comes into Lambeau Field on Sunday. "They racked up a bunch of yards in that game. It's not just stopping the pass, you have to stop the run on those guys.
"They have some guys that are good physical runners and other guys that are better breakaway guys. We're going to have to defend everybody."
In assessing the Packers' run game, Schwartz said the difference begins with the players who are lining up behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"I think they made a concerted effort to ramp up the personnel with the running back position," Schwartz said. "They drafted (Eddie) Lacy pretty early. They drafted (Johnathan) Franklin. They got Starks back from injury; he had been injured for a couple of years.
"Those are some good players. They spread some teams thin in the passing game. As a result, there are some opportunities in the run game."
With Starks out several weeks due to a knee injury he suffered against the Bengals two weeks ago, the Packers are going to find out whether the improvement they've seen on the ground is related to the additions they made to their backfield. The two rookies are going to have to handle the bulk of the carries.
In McCarthy's mind, they have already made the run game better. The blocking has been better, but it takes more than average running talent to produce the numbers they have so far.
"When I look at a running back (it's) really in the same way I look at a quarterback," McCarthy said. "They're decision-makers. They have to run through the right hole and set the blocks. Good runners make a run-blocking unit better.
"That's a fact and I think our running back position is off to a good start and we've been more productive in the run game because of it."
McCarthy said he began to understand the importance of having natural, instinctive runners during a discussion about the great Marcus Allen with fellow Kansas City Chiefs assistant coach Jimmy Raye in 1993. The two were debating the relevance of scheme and blocking to pure rushing talent when the well-traveled and highly respected Raye went up to the blackboard and wrote:
"Production of the run game is directly related to the runner."
It might seem like a "duh" moment to outsiders, but in the coaching and personnel ranks, offensive line play and scheme are often given as much or more weight than the sheer natural talent of the guy toting the ball.
Thompson hasn't rejected that theory completely.
He would have taken Marshawn Lynch in '07 had he fallen to the Packers and was very interested in Mark Ingram in '11 before New Orleans scooped him up. He had a chance to trade for Lynch two years ago but passed for a number of reasons, including Buffalo's asking price and Lynch's pending free agent status.
Most of the resources Thompson has acquired have gone toward feeding McCarthy's high-octane passing game, and McCarthy's lack of interest in running the ball has led his offense to finish 20th or below in rushing five times and no higher than 14th in his seven previous seasons.
There is no guarantee Lacy and Franklin will keep up the pace Starks established with 187 yards on 34 carries in six quarters, but the fact Lacy rebounded well from a terrible start against San Francisco before suffering a concussion and Franklin rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries in the second half of the Cincinnati game has led to the belief that they can.
Rookie mistakes like Lacy's early miscues in the no-huddle offense and Franklin's game-turning fumble on a fourth-and-1 play are things they're going to have to avoid. But the Packers are willing to put up with those growing pains in exchange for a more productive running attack.
"We ran the ball good, and we're going to continue to run the ball good, and it's going to make us two-dimensional and it will be a pretty hard offense to stop once we're clicking on both cylinders," said Lacy, who practiced Wednesday and has been cleared to play against Detroit.
"We were drafted to come in and play. What order we play in, that's not up to us. But once we get in, we just have to do what we were drafted to do."
Neither back has earned his NFL spurs yet, but more than any of the Packers' draft choices, the two have the ability to make a difference right away.
Rookie defensive linemen rarely make an impact and first-round pick Datone Jones has not so far. Fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari has been a godsend, but the Packers need him to play up to the level of injured Bryan Bulaga not be the guy who lifts the offense to another level.
A really good running back can improve an offense right away, especially when it's a unit that hasn't been exactly wearing out opposing defenses the past seven seasons. Lacy and Franklin are trying to be that back.
"I think we're blocking a little bit better upfront and I think we're reading the blocks better than we have in a while," Rodgers said. "I think Eddie (Lacy) made some good runs and then obviously a big game from James (Starks) and then last game we played, Johnathan (Franklin) was able to break out for a 50-plus-yarder and those definitely help the average.
"Those guys (have) been running the ball hard and reading their blocks well."
The Detroit Lions are heading to Lambeau Field atop the NFC North. Guaranteeing they stay there will require them to break another extensive road losing streak.
Two weeks after winning at Washington for the first time in 21 tries, the Lions will try to snap a 22-game Wisconsin skid against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Nineteen of those losses came at Lambeau while three were played in Milwaukee. The Lions' last road win against the Packers was Dec. 15, 1991 in Green Bay, and they'll look to snap that slide after ending a nearly 68-year drought at Washington with a 27-20 victory Sept. 22.
"It's the same mindset we have every time we play a road game," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Lambeau's a tough environment but it's no different than any other place."
This will be a matchup of two of the three NFL teams averaging at least 400 yards of offense and 30 points.
Stafford and the Lions moved into a tie for first with a 40-32 home win over Chicago on Sunday. Detroit turned in its best rushing performance of the year, finishing with 159 yards after totaling 112 the previous two weeks.
Reggie Bush had his best game with the Lions, running for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Packers rank eighth in rush defense at 93.3 yards allowed per game, though they're 28th against the pass at 311.0. Stafford's top target, Calvin Johnson, has 21 catches and 362 receiving yards in his last two visits to Green Bay.
The Packers could have starting safety Morgan Burnett back to help hold the Lions' offense in check. He missed the first three games with a hamstring injury.
"They have a very explosive offense," Burnett said. "They've got a lot of weapons with Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush; they've got (Brandon) Pettigrew at tight end, you've got Matthew Stafford at quarterback. They've got weapons, so you've got to trust your defense, trust your technique. You can't get out of line with guessing or anything, because they're a good team."
Hamstring injuries have left the statuses of linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Casey Hayward uncertain.
Stafford threw for 242 yards with a touchdown and interception against the Bears, and he wasn't asked to do much after the Lions built a 30-13 halftime lead.
Detroit's defense forced four turnovers for the second time this year with an effective pass rush, sacking Jay Cutler three times to double his season total. The Lions, though, were outscored 16-3 in the fourth quarter as Cutler threw for two TDs, and rattling Aaron Rodgers hasn't been quite as easy for Detroit.
The Packers are 8-1 against the Lions with Rodgers starting, with the loss coming in a game he was knocked out of Dec. 12, 2010.
Green Bay is third in the league with 454.7 yards per game and second in scoring average at 32.0 points.
Running back Eddie Lacy hopes to have the chance to help sustain those gaudy numbers. He was at practice early in the week after being sidelined by a concussion sustained Sept. 15 in a 38-20 victory over Washington.
Without Lacy, however, the Packers have had a 100-yard rusher in back-to-back games after going the previous 44 without one.
"I'm fully aware of how we're viewed, but the reality is how our offense is implemented in practice and how we train, it starts with the run game," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Now, the way the games are played has a lot to do with the trend and the flow of the football game. Running the football is important."
James Starks ran for 132 yards against the Redskins and Johnathan Franklin had 103 on Sept. 22, though Green Bay lost 34-30 at Cincinnati the week before its bye.
Rodgers' 105.1 passer rating is among the league leaders, but the Bengals were able to get to him and create mistakes. They sacked him four times and forced him into two of his three interceptions this year, while holding him to 244 yards passing.
Rodgers had surpassed 250 passing yards in seven straight games since the Lions held him to 173 in a 27-20 victory Dec. 9.
The Packers have won nine in a row at home, with Rodgers getting picked off just four times in that span. Snapping streaks, though, isn't the main motivator for Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
"No. 1, it would be our fourth win of the year," he said. "No. 2, it would make us 3-0 in our division. It would give us another chance to put a loss on a division opponent. We certainly want to end the streak (in Wisconsin), but that's not our rallying cry. Our rallying cry is 'Green Bay' and 'division game.' Those are the things that will mean more to the players."
Detroit added veteran receiver Kevin Ogletree on Wednesday a day after he was cut by Tampa Bay. He adds much-needed depth for the Lions in the absence of No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson, out indefinitely with a broken left arm.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) is questionable, but he practiced for the Lions on Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday. Cornerback Chris Houston (hamstring) and safety Glover Quin (ankle) are also questionable.
The Packers ruled out cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring) and running back James Starks (knee) early in the week. Guard Greg Van Roten (foot) is also out, but tight end Jermichael Finley (concussion) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) are on track to be in the lineup.