The Packers play the Lions tonight, and as we’ve seen thus far this season, all bets are off as to what is going to happen come kickoff. Green Bay is technically a three-point favorite, but we’ve seen them lose consecutive divisional home games in which they were favored by more than a touchdown. As far as I’m concerned, that line means nothing until this team can prove why they’re the best team in the division.
Breaking down the X’s and O’s has been a pretty ugly game of late, with Green Bay’s once prolific offense failing to score 17 points in three of their last five. It feels like everything you know about this team can be thrown out the window right now, but there are some pretty clear trends that have made the team lost four of their last five. It’s time to breakdown five things the Packers need to do to win this game and prove that they’re still the Super Bowl contenders we know and love.
1. Win the turnover battle
This hasn’t been too much of a problem for the Packers in recent years. If Rodgers throws an interception that almost always meant it hit off one of his receiver’s hands, and Dom Capers bend-but-don’t-break defense has always come up with turnovers at the right times. This year, the script has changed somewhat.
Rodgers has flat-out thrown a couple of bad interceptions. These feel downright weird to watch him do. I can’t really articulate it better than that, but if you’ve followed the Packers close enough over the last five years then you know exactly what I mean. He claims he’s not trying to do too much, but when the offense is struggling to score like it has been, it’s understandable that he might try and put the team on his shoulders. The Packers can’t really afford to have this happen and give Lions fans momentum at home. For the record, I don’t think it will.
Eddie Lacy has been great the last two games, and I’ll get to him later, but he needs to take better care of the football. He has already fumbled more times this year than he had in either of his first two seasons, and his carry numbers are already down this year. He might also be trying to do a bit too much with the ball in his hands. Either way, his fumble against Chicago directly led to the Bears’ first points of the game, so that can’t happen again, especially on the road.
Green Bay’s defense is in the middle of the pack in terms of forcing turnovers this season. This would typically not be a pressing issue, but when compounded by a severely down year from the offense, it has become a more glaring issue. The Packers didn’t force an interception from Cutler and only got one from Stafford in their last two matchups, and they lost accordingly.
2. Pressure Stafford
This is pretty simple, as it’s clearly the best way to force him into turnovers, which we know he’s capable of doing. Packers games have been completely different when the pass rush is creating pressure. It helps them on third downs which gives the defense a rest and lets Rodgers get back on the field to try and establish a rhythm, which he hasn’t had many opportunities to find. Pressure Stafford, and the entire game changes, as he’s 3-7 in his career against the Packers with 18 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.
3. Continue to feed Eddie Lacy
Again, most of this are very simple points. Lacy has looked back to form the last two weeks, running for 100 yards in consecutive games for the first time in his career. The last time these teams met, Lacy was inactive with a groin injury and James Starks ran for a measly 42 yards on 15 carries. The Lions have given up 122 rushing yards per game on 4 yards per carry, so there should be some room to run. When Lacy is running the ball, it opens up passing lanes for the Packers’ receivers and allows Green Bay to control the pace of the game. If he goes for another 100 yards, I predict a Packer victory.
4. Find ways to get Randall Cobb the ball
This one feels like it’s the most important. Cobb is Green Bay’s best playmaker in space, and yet the Packers have consistently struggled to get him the ball. Part of this is due to the added safety help teams are giving him without Jordy Nelson to worry about, but I think part of it is due to a lack of creativity.
We’ve all seen how effective this offense can be when Cobb runs routes out of the backfield and Rodgers runs his preferred up-tempo attack. Having Ty Montgomery back would help a bunch, because the Packers don’t really have someone else they can plug into the slot with Abbrederis nursing a rib injury.
Still, as the offensive coordinator, Tom Clements job should be to GET COBB THE BALL! By any means necessary. He and Rodgers have struggled to get into a rhythm which has negative rippling effects across the offense. Get Cobb the ball in space with pick plays, pre-snap motion and other tricks, and you just might find the answer to this team’s woes.
5. Stop Ziggy Ansah
This is easier said than done, I’m aware. But Ansah is the most talented member of this defense with DeAndre Levy out and he’s been a terror rushing the passer this year. After embarrassing Mark Sanchez to the tune of 3.5 sacks on Thanksgiving, Ansah is now second in the league with 11.5 on the year. He is more talented than the linemen he will face tonight, but the Packers need to focus on him in their game plan and give Rodgers time in the pocket. Let’s hope the offensive line is healthy enough to contain him.
Sources: packers.com, nfl.com, sbnation.com, Fansided