Another divisional game means I get another chance to dredge through the depth chart of a divisional opponent to figure out which players to watch closely this week. I'll try not to repeat myself - i'm sure nobody wants to hear me re-hash reasons why DeAndre Levy will be key for the Lions this week.
We have discussed it at length, but it bears repeating: the Lions have lost their #2, 3, and 4 receivers to a variety of issues this season. Nate Burleson broke his leg in week 7. Titus Young had a brain cramp in the last Green Bay game and has been essentially dismissed from the team. Then last week, Ryan Broyles tore his ACL. That means Pettigrew is by default the number two option in the passing game.
He's not a bad option, either. He has gone over 700 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons, and is well on his way to doing the same this year. He's a big target at 6'5", 265, and will give whichever Packer covers him a tough time. Limiting his impact on the game will allow the Packers' secondary to focus on bracketing Calvin Johnson and in turn limit his impact.
WR Mike Thomas
Thomas, the former Jaguar, becomes the starter opposite Megatron, and will probably have his share of targets as well. They'll need him to contribute at least a little bit, perhaps in the 4-5 catch range, to at least force Dom Capers to take a little of his focus off of Johnson. The problem is that in the two weeks since Young was sat down, he has three catches for 16 yards. He'll need to have more than that to make the Packers think twice about him.
Cherlius had a rather unpleasant day three weeks ago, giving up two sacks to Erik Walden. Now he's banged up with a knee injury, sitting out practice on Wednesday and participating in only limited drills on Thursday. Hopefully the tag-team of Walden and Frank Zombo can provide some pass rush again off the left side of the defense, since Clay Matthews will be sitting out once again.
Really, Hanson is a marvel. It's certainly not unheard of for kickers to have long, productive careers (see Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen, etc), but rarely do they do all of their work for a single team. Think about it, Hanson has been with Detroit almost long enough to have won a game in Green Bay! The thing is, he's still easily one of the most accurate kickers in the league (he has only missed 3 kicks inside 30 yards in his 21-year career, and only 13 from inside 40), while his ability to kick from distance hasn't faded (10 of 13 from 50+ since 2010). I congratulate him on a great career, and selfishly hope that he hangs up the cleats after this season.
I am going to pick a whole position grouping for the last position this week, partially because I don't have any clue who will line up for the Lions in the middle of their secondary. One starter could be Louis Delmas, who finally started practicing yesterday (albeit in a limited fashion). At one position they will probably start 9th-year man Erik Coleman, who spent five years as a starter between 2004 and 2009 before dropping off the map. Perhaps career special teamer John Wendling will start. Who's he? I have no idea, but he's apparently played in every game for the Lions since 2010 while starting only four of them. Don Carey? Sure, why not. He started 10 games for Jacksonville in 2010 but only two since.
The point is, the Lions have dealt with a lot of injuries and unknowns at the safety position this year, and when playing a team with four or more legitimate receiving weapons like Green Bay, that doesn't usually translate to a whole lot of success.