Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Preview and Prediction

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<p> Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers Preview and Prediction</p>

The Detroit Lions will try and play spoiler when they take on the Green Bay Packers tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Lions (4-8) are looking to end a four-game losing streak and do something they haven’t done in more than 20 years – win at Lambeau Field. The Packers (8-4) are aiming to stay atop the NFC North standings by beating the Lions for the second time in less than a month.

When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Detroit’s offense is tops in the NFL in passing and second in total offense. The Lions are generating more than 416 yards of offense per game, thanks to a passing attack that is piling up more than 312 per contest through the air. Not surprisingly, quarterback Matthew Stafford leads the league with 3,742 passing yards, but he also has thrown the most passes (534) and is only No. 23 in terms of passer rating. Stafford, who threw 41 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions last season, has just 16 touchdown passes compared to 11 picks so far this season. That’s a big reason why, even with all of the yards, the Lions are only 11th in scoring at 24.5 points per game. Stafford’s favorite target is All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who after a slow start has a chance to break the single-season record for receiving yards. With 1,428 (119 ypg), Johnson needs just 421 yards in his last four to break Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards that he set back in 1995. Considering the number of targets Johnson receives (average of 12 per game) and the fact that the Lions’ wide receiving corps has been decimated by injuries, Megatron’s got a decent shot of taking away at least one record from the Hall of Famer before the season’s over. While a big chunk of the Lions’ offense comes via the pass, the running game has done a good job of getting the ball across the goal line. Even though Detroit is just 21st in rushing offense (105 ypg), the Lions are tied for the third-most rushing touchdowns with 14. They are led in that department by second-year running back Mikel Leshoure, who has rushed for a team-high 591 yards and seven touchdowns in his debut season. Leshoure, who the Lions drafted in the second round in 2011, missed all of his rookie season after rupturing his Achilles in training camp. Besides Stafford’s 11 interceptions, the Lions also have fumbled the ball away nine times and have allowed 25 quarterback sacks.

Green Bay’s defense is 15th overall in total defense (349 ypg) and 13th in scoring defense at 21.6 points per game. The Packers are ranked in the middle of the pack in both rushing (115.2 ypg, 15th) and passing (233.8 ypg, 17th) defense, but one of the areas they really shine are in putting pressure on the quarterback. The Packers are fourth in the league with 34 sacks, and this pressure has helped the unit produce 14 interceptions. That’s the bulk of the turnovers forced, however, as the Packers have just four fumble recoveries on the season.

When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Green Bay’s offense has not been nearly as productive as it was last year, when the Packers ranked first in scoring and third in total offense. This season, the Packers are 16th in the league in total offense, at 350.6 yards per game, and 12th in scoring at 24.7 points per game. Reigning NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers has put together another strong season, as he’s the league’s top-rated passer (105.0), is tied for second with 29 touchdown passes and fourth in completion percentage (67.4). The problem for Rodgers and the offense has been two-fold: a lack of pass protection and consistent production from the running game. Rodgers has been sacked a league-worst 39 times, which makes the fact he’s only thrown eight interceptions so far even more impressive, while the ground game is generating less than four yards per carry and has produced a grand total of three rushing touchdowns. Injuries also have played a role, as Green Bay lost starting running back Cedric Benson earlier this season to a Lisfranc injury, and now are without James Starks as well. The lead back duties now shift to Alex Green, who is averaging 3.3 yards per carry. The wide receiving corps also has had to deal with its share of injuries, the first being a groin injury that caused Greg Jennings to miss seven games. Now, it’s Jordy Nelson, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury and may be unable to go tonight. Fortunately for Rodgers, second-year pro Randall Cobb and veteran James Jones have been able to pick up the slack. Cobb has emerged this year as a dynamic playmaker capable of making things happen as a receiver, kick returner or when he’s lined up in the backfield, while Jones leads the team and is third in the league with nine touchdown receptions. The Packers have committed just 12 turnovers, including four lost fumbles, which is tied for second-fewest in the NFC.

Detroit’s defense is ranked No. 19 in total defense (353.4 ypg) and 25th in points allowed at 26.3 per game. The Lions are just behind the Packers’ in terms of pass defense (234 ypg, 18th) and are 19th in rushing defense (119.4 ypg). They also are in the middle of the pack when it comes to sacks (27, tied for 16th), and have forced a total of 15 turnovers, including 10 interceptions. The Lions’ defense has been particularly vulnerable during this current four-game losing streak, as the unit has surrendered an average of 31.8 points per game during this stretch.

Key Factor:
Believe it or not, but the last time Detroit beat Green Bay in Lambeau Field was way back on Dec. 15, 1991. The Lions have dropped their last 21 games played on the frozen tundra, including a playoff game in 1994. Overall, the Packers have won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two long-time division rivals and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a career 18:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio in eight games against the Lions. Green Bay won the first meeting, 24-20, just three weeks ago in Detroit. The Packers scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game, a common theme for the Lions’ defense during the team’s four-game losing streak. In each of the Lions’ last three losses, they have held a lead in the fourth quarter with less than two minutes remaining. Besides the Packers’ game, there has been Houston first tying Detroit with 1:55 on the clock and the Texans then going on to win on Thanksgiving Day with a field goal late in the overtime period. And last week, it was rookie quarterback Andrew Luck rallying his Indianapolis Colts from 12 points down in the fourth quarter, culminating the miraculous comeback with a game-winning touchdown pass with no time remaining. So not only do the Lions have the bitter taste of last week’s defeat, not to mention their previous two losses, still in their mouths, they are now faced with playing the division leader on their own home turf. And did I mention that tonight’s game also happens to be on a field on which the Lions haven’t won a game in more than two decades?

Prediction:
Packers 31, Lions 24

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