Shawn: I can make a good case that the 1962 Packers were the greatest NFL team to ever play. They went 13-1 and won an NFL championship. They led the NFL in points scored and fewest points allowed, a feat only matched since by the 72 Dolphins and 96 Packers. The team that won the championship the year before the Packers went back-to-back in 61 and 62 — the Philadelphia Eagles, the 62 Packers beat 49-0. The team that won the championship the following year, the Chicago Bears, the 62 Packers beat 49-0.
And yet, the 1962 Packers not only lost at Detroit on Thanksgiving, but they were trailing 23-0 at half.
This has zero influence on what will happen on Thursday. I bring it up simply to make the point that it really doesn’t matter what happens on Thursday. What matters is what the Packers do AFTER that.
I have been insisting all year that the Packers will not go undefeated. If that is to be the case, then they better lose this game. If they don’t, they have a serious shot at it.
For me, this game mostly comes down to Matthew Stafford versus Aaron Rodgers and how well each gets protected.
Stafford is one of the better passers in the league when he is able to set his feet. If you can get him to move off his spot, his accuracy drops dramatically. The Packers have not done a good job of making QBs uncomfortable all season. This is one QB where it is absolutely vital that they do so. IF they can get Stafford to hurry or move his feet, they can take advantage of his inaccuracy and get some interceptions that could make the difference.
Detroit cares about running the ball about as much as the Packers do. So that is a non-issue this week. Where the reincarnated Kevin Smith is a much bigger concern is in the passing game. Stafford loves dumping the ball to his RBs, and this has been a sore spot for the Packers all year. Stafford also has two decent TEs to throw the ball to, which is the other huge concern that I have.
The Packers have the advantage of getting a great warm up against Tampa Bay prior to this game. Tampa’s D-line plays much the same way that the Detroit line does. Tampa also has Albert Haynesworth, who on a rare good day can be comparable to Suh. The Packer O-line played well against Tampa, at least in the passing game. There is a big difference between at home on grass and away on turf, however. Detroit will be quicker off the ball and so the Packer tackles have to be likewise.
Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst game of the year and will be playing in a dome. Both are big positives for his performance.
Unlike Stafford, Rodgers can handle some modicum of pressure and still make plays. There may be room to run for Rodgers, though memories of last year might limit that. When the Packers played at Detroit last year, they didn’t have Jerimichael Finley. He can make a big difference here just as he did against Chicago.
I am not even going to get into how much this game means to Detroit socially and economically. I will say that just in the standings this game is a lot more meaningful to the Lions than it is to the Packers. This game is the difference between being a Super Bowl contender and just a playoff contender.
However, don’t think the Packers don’t cherish this historic run that they are on, and coach McCarthy always preaches the importance of divisional games.
A lot of things are telling me the Lions may outplay the Packers and win this game, but the Packers during the last year have been the ultimate big-game team. They show up when it matters most. It would be crazy to pick against them.
Packers 31, Lions 27
Andrew: As I see it the Packers key to success lies in the play of six players. If we can earn a 3-3 push out of these six men then I think we win the game. The six in no particular order are: 1)Bryan Bulaga 2) T.J. Lang 3) Scott Wells 4) Josh Sitton 5) Marshall Newhouse 6) Charlie Peprah
Can at least three of these guys play well? Bulaga usually does, so there’s one. Lang and Wells we’ll call a split (although we could be surprised or disappointed) so that’s two. Sitton faces Suh and is banged up, Newhouse is a liability every game and is also ailing.
That leaves just Charlie Peprah. Yeah…my thoughts exactly.
The Packers start fast but rarely finish going away. The Lions start slow and come on like a freight train. Have you ever seen Zenyatta run? She sits wayyyy back and then just when you think it’s impossible for her to come back she does… and just in time.
I hope I’m wrong and I feel dirty saying it, but this game is much bigger for the Lions than it is us. I see the Packers getting their customary early lead followed by the customary run our opponents generally make to keep it interesting, followed by an extremely rare defensive collapse in the waning moments. It’s going to Megatron. Everyone knows it. But it’s a perfect jump ball that ends the Packers run at a perfect seas0n.
Detroit 41, Green Bay 38