Preview: Green Bay Packers at Lions

The big news in Green Bay this week have been the injuries, and the big news in Detroit have been the injuries. My opinion is that while the injuries to LB Aaron Kampman and CB Al Harris are significant, they still have a good defensive unit in place. For the Lions, it seems like their offense can't function without QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson. Based on the fact that the Lions only had 149 yards of total offense when the teams met last month, and that Stafford and Johnson were out for that game as well, it's a fair point. 

League rankings, based on yardage, from NFL.com:

Team Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 11 7 4 7
Lions 25 18 20 32

The Packers offense has been productive all season, and should have no trouble gaining yards against a struggling Lions defense (especially their patchwork secondary). While it looks like the Lions might have a shot at attacking the injured Packer pass defense, that No. 18 ranking is based on yardage and doesn't consider that the Lions have a league leading 18 INTs. And how ineffective their offense is without Johnson. 

Packers run offense vs. Lions run defense: RB Ryan Grant had one of his best games of the season last week against the 49ers, go vote for him as the FedEx Ground Player of the Week, in large part because the offensive line had their best game of the season. The 49ers run defense has played very well this season, but the o-line opened big holes and controlled the line of scrimmage. The return of RT Mark Tauscher for more than just one half was part of the reason they succeeded, but everyone played better too. If C Scott Wells misses the game, it should hurt, but it might not be a big drop down to C Evan Dietrich-Smith. Since D-S has never had much playing time, it's hard to tell how well he'll play. It's not a given, but there's no reason to suspect Grant, or RB Brandon Jackson, can't have a big game.

Packers pass offense vs. Lions pass defense: QB Brady Quinn has started, and finished, 4 games this season. In those first 3 starts, he threw for a combined 499 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs. In his last start against the Lions, he had 304 yards and 4 TDs. Part of their problem is that they don't generate much of a pass rush, only 18 sacks in their first 10 games (and 5 against the Packers in week 6), which comes almost exclusively from their blitzing linebackers. But the bigger problem is their patchwork secondary. They recently lost SS Marquand Manuel and CB Jack Williams for the season, and S Kalvin Pearson and S Ko Simpson should miss the Thanksgiving game too. Rookie 2nd round pick FS Louis Delmas has had a good season, and free agent signing CB Phillip Buchanon has managed to keep his starting job. But veteran CB Anthony Henry had been benched the past few weeks (he might be the nickel CB on Thursday) and journeyman CB William James is probably the other starter. My best guess is that journeyman S Marvin White, who did start 10 games for the Bengals in 2007, will probably be the other starting safety. When it's a challenge for me to figure out who's starting in the Lions secondary, that's the definition of patchwork. And QB Aaron Rodgers has never thrown for under 300 yards in 3 career games against the Lions.

Lions run offense vs. Packers run defense: The Packers run defense has been exceptional this season, and the Lions aren't running the ball. As a team, the Lions are averaging 3.9 yards/carry, but they rarely call for a run (it's only been called on approximately 40% of their plays this season). The injuries to Kampman and Harris shouldn't effect the run defense. 

Lions pass defense vs. Packers pass defense. There are so many unknowns. Will Calvin Johnson play? Does QB Daunte Culpepper have anything left? Will the loss of Kampman and Harris give the Lions an opening to attack? The Packers had a great pass rush against QB Tony Romo two weeks ago without Kampman, but one game is a small sample size. The pass defense was very good during Harris's absence last season with a spleen injury. The Lions won't repeat last Sunday's dominant performance against the Browns, but they could be anywhere from decent to awful in this game. Culpepper had 282 yards passing and 1 TD in week 5 against the Steelers, and he could approach those numbers again. 

X-Factor - Special Teams: The Packers awful special teams unit moved up to No. 31 overall, according to Football Outsiders, due to the unbelievably bad Steeler kick coverage, but the Packers are still very bad. However, this isn't an area the Lions can exploit much because their own special teams unit stinks, ranked No. 29 overall by FO. And the Lions top kick returner, WR Derrick Williams, is battling a hip injury. 

Though the Lions were shut out in Lambeau last month, they've been scoring between 10 to 20 points/game at home (Browns game excepted), while the Packers have been scoring 26 to 31 points/game (Cowboys game excepted) over their past 6 games. Packers 31, Lions 17. 

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