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Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions Game Preview and Prediction

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

This Green Bay vs. Detroit divisional pairing has shootout written all over it, as Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford will be flinging footballs all over Ford Field Sunday afternoon on FOX. The Packers arrive in Motown carrying some momentum thanks to their somewhat miraculous 31–24 comeback win over the Jets that allowed the Pack to avoid the dreaded 0–2 start. Meanwhile, the Lions, who looked impressive in toying with the Giants in a 35–14 Week 1 win, limp home following a thrashing at the hands of the Panthers in Charlotte. A narrative has yet to take hold in the wide-open NFC North, where all four teams are 1–1, but the winner of this one has an opportunity for a tiny bit of separation. 

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Detroit -6.5

Three Things to Watch

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1. Ground Games Stuck in Neutral

Neither team has mounted anything resembling an effective rushing attack so far in this young NFL season. The respective rushing leaders — Eddie Lacy for the Packers (77 yards) and Joique Bell for the Lions (87 yards) — have yet to crack the century mark after two games. The Lions rank 28th in the NFL in rushing at 73.0 yards per game, while the Packers are only two spots better at 26th, with 80.0 yards per game. The good news for the Lions is that the Packers defense has been unable to stop the run, allowing 176.5 rushing yards per game to rank 31st in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Lions are second in the NFL in run defense, surrendering 57.5 yards per game so far. If Detroit can press this advantage and establish the ground game, its offensive options should open up considerably.   

[inline_team_schedule team-id=24 date=20140904 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=4][/inline_team_schedule]

2. Jordy and Megatron

The NFL’s current two leaders in receiving yardage will be on the field for this one. Yes, one of them is Calvin Johnson. No, he's not No. 1. That would be Packers wideout Jordy Nelson, who has 292 receiving yards in two games, including a nine-catch, 209-yard shredding of the Jets secondary during the Packers' comeback win. Aaron Rodgers targeted Nelson 16 times on Sunday, the most attention he has ever lavished on one receiver in a single game. And Nelson did his part, averaging 9.7 yards after the catch. It's early, but Nelson is on pace for a 144-catch, 2,336-yard season and is staking his claim to be the second-best receiver in the NFC. Johnson remains the gold standard among receivers, but Nelson could be in the process of making history for the Green and Gold.

3. Will Tate Be Golden?

The Lions acquired Golden Tate during the offseason to provide Megatron and the Lions offense with a complementary piece, one that would relieve the pressure on Johnson and give quarterback Matthew Stafford another target. The Panthers proved last Sunday that taking Tate away as an option is an effective approach to stopping the Lions offense, primarily in the sense that it forces an over-reliance on Johnson. "When you can take away the other reads and guys who can hurt you on offense, it does kind of make you one-dimensional," Panthers safety Thomas DeCoud said. "And then they are going to try and feed their big receiver, their big target and now we can key in on that and be ready." Look for Stafford to try to find Tate in an attempt to open up other facets of the offense.

Final Analysis

The Panthers provided a blueprint for beating the Lions, turning them into a one-dimensional offense. While that dimension — throw the ball up and let Megatron go get it — can be effective, the Lions must get production from the ground game to relieve pressure off of the Matthew Stafford-Calving Johnson combo. Aaron Rodgers remains an unstoppable force, but the Packers have been similarly one-dimensional, relying on frequent Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson hookups to bail them out. Whichever team shows more diversity has the upper hand, and given the Pack's lack of a run defense, that team could be the Lions.

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Prediction: Detroit 31, Green Bay 28