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Preview: Lions at Packers

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The Green Bay Packers are coming off the bye week, and into one of the easiest games on their schedule. The lowly Detroit Lions, in Lambeau. I gave up on looking back for the Lions last win in Green Bay, it's been a while, but it doesn't really matter since it's almost an entirely new Lions team in 2009. Here are the league rankings for both teams, based on yardage from NFL.com:

Team Pass Offense Pass Defense
Packers 12 17
Lions 16 27
Team Run Offense Run Defense
Packers 22 20
Lions 19 21

Or maybe this game is going to be closer than some people expect. Neither team is very good at running the ball, or stopping the run. Both teams can get yardage passing the ball. The only thing that really stands out is the Lions bad pass defense. We need to take a closer look at this game, after the jump.

While the Packers lead the league in sacks allowed, the Lions lead the league in a more important stat; points allowed. That seems a little odd since their defense doesn't look that bad. At least it looks a lot better than last season. Imagine the worst defense you can, then double it (maybe triple it) and that's the Lions 2008 defense. One reason for the turnaround is the arrival of Jim Schwartz, their new head coach who was previously the defensive coordinator for the Titans. However, Schwartz doesn't play on the field. Looking at their current stats, their top 8 defensive players, as ranked by tackles recorded, are all new guys. They added some free agents (LB Larry Foote, ex-Packers SS Marquand Manuel and DE Jason Hunter, and CB William James), made a couple trades (LB Julian Peterson, CB Anthony Henry), and picked up a couple guys in the draft (2nd round S Louis Delmas and 3rd round LB DeAndre Levy). It's not the next Steel Curtain, but they're playing better than last season.

However they are still giving up a lot of passing yards, and QB Aaron Rodgers should have better pass protection on Sunday with the likely return of LT Chad Clifton. The Lions pass defense has given up 15 TD passes and only 3 INTs, a 119.7 QB rating against, highest in the league. The yardage might not kill them, but all those TDs might. The Lions pass defense statistically looks worse than the Rams, and Rodgers had 13 completions and 2 TDs against them. And that was despite a couple drops from his receivers.

Although the Lions are giving up fewer yards rushing, teams haven't run the ball that often against them either. The Lions are allowing a terrible 4.9 yards/carry against, which should help even RB Ryan Grant have a solid game.

While their offense has shown some signs of life moving the ball, they are having a hard time hanging on to it. Rookie QB Matthew Stafford has dropped back to pass 150 times this season, and has 10 sacks, 6 INTs and 2 fumbles. So something bad happens to him about once a quarter. With Stafford's injury, QB Daunte Culpepper might be under center and he isn't any better, with 57 dropbacks for 7 sacks, 1 INT and 3 fumbles. Something bad happens to him almost twice as often. Still they've managed 103 points which is 19th best (by average) in points. 

While the Lions have amassed a decent amount of total yards running the ball, it takes them a lot of carries. Leading rusher RB Kevin Smith has a miserable 3.1 yards/attempt. Despite the high total yards the Packers have surrendered against opposing running backs, I'm very optimistic about their run defense after it stopped RB Adrian Peterson two weeks ago in Minneapolis. 

While I'm not a huge fan of SS Atari Bigby, his likely return is great news. The Packers pass defense struggled two weeks ago because of SS Derrick Martin, who was benched mid-game. And that came on the heels of the poor start by SS Aaron Rouse, and now current NY Giant, against the Bengals. While the Packers pass defense should be much improved, the Lions are likely to be without star WR Calvin Johnson. Still they managed almost 300 yards passing last week against the Steelers with nothing from him. The Packers may give up some yards passing, but they'll hopefully be able to take advantage of turnovers by Culpepper.

If you're looking for the special teams to provide an X-factor in this game; don't. The Packers haven't gotten anything positive, and only some negative, from them this season. It's worse for the Lions because the special teams just collapsed last week against the Steelers.

The Lions remind me of the Bears offense, combined with the Rams defense, two teams the Packers have beaten this season. Packers 38, Lions 17.