In talking about Week 5's NFC North showdown between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers most pundits will rattle off the Packers' skill position players like Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, etc. While the Lions on paper may not have the same quantity of horses to keep up with those finely tuned Green Bay thoroughbreds, they can win this game in the trenches.
Detroit defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Ezekiel Ansah along with Willie Young form one of the most talented front fours in the league. And while Green Bay has faced some tough defensive lines so far in both the 49ers and Bengals, the Lions could be the toughest one yet.
Ansah is probably the most athletic end (outside of Aldon Smith) that offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay will see all season. Suh and Fairley are the most feared tackle combo in the league. Interior linemen Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang will not be able to blow open truck-sized holes like they did against the Redskins.
I fully expect Rodgers to attack Detroit's below average secondary early and often. Job one for the Packers' O-line will be to give Rodgers enough time to pick the defense apart and not get blasted by the Lions D-line and/or any blitzers in the meantime. I have no doubt that with the emergence of Johnathan Franklin in Week 3, we'll see more than a couple screen passes to Franklin and Lacy. Head coach Mike McCarthy knows how to soften up a pass rush, and Green Bay has the talent to execute those screens.
James Jones may not get more than a few cursory deep balls. Instead, it will be the underneath routes of Cobb and Jordy Nelson that will be crucial. If Rodgers will get the time to make those stick throws on hitches and outs, that will probably be how the Packers offense hums this week.
Jermichael Finley is the de facto wild card here. He has the speed to burn Lions' linebackers Ashlee Palmer and DeAndre Levy. He also has the strength to "post up" for the ball against them as well. It's a huge mismatch advantage for Green Bay. But will the Packers be able to exploit it?
The short answer is probably not. Finley may be asked to stay in and block more than he has so far to help out with Detroit's pressure on Rodgers. But if Green Bay's young--and still jelling--offensive line can do without Finley helping inside, then Detroit has to blitz and hope for turnovers. The nickel and dime packages that the Lions will trot out there simply cannot cover Cobb, Nelson, Jones and Finley. (Who can blame them? Few can. Especially with an MVP throwing to them.)
We can talk up the Packers' skill players to death. If the offensive line doesn't show up or does not play up to the talent level of Suh, Fairley and Ansah, then it doesn't really matter how open those receivers get. Rodgers will never get the time to find them.
I do believe that Bakhtiari, Sitton, Dietrich-Smith, Lang and Barclay will be up to the challenge. But if I am Lions head coach Jim Schawartz, I know that this is how I win this game. And that's how I will attack Green Bay's offense come Sunday.
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