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Packers vs. Lions Key Match Up #1: Nick Fairley vs. Evan Dietrich-Smith

EDS and Fairley have had two wildly different starts to their career, but now each are making their fourth start and looking to prove to be the future for their respective franchise.


The best way to beat the Lions is to have a fast start to your offense. Put them in a hole early and force Matthew Stafford to produce for four quarters instead of just sprinkling on some fourth quarter magic. It’s easier said than done, but it is possible. There should be little question about the Lions secondary. The latest example of this is the acquisition of Pat Lee to the Lions which may actually be an upgrade for the Lions at the bottom end of their cornerback group (NOTE: if you forgot who Lee is basically a poor man’s Jarrett Bush. Bad in coverage – worse than Bush himself in fact – and good at special teams). So the key match ups won’t shine a light on our receivers and their DB’s. Instead the success of the offense is going to lie along the battle in trenches. If Aaron Rodgers can be protected and holes opened in the running game then the Packers should be able to pull away from the Lions and take control of the NFC North. If they can’t then we could be in for a repeat of what happened at Detroit in 2010.

There are lots of ways to shut down the Lions defensive line, but the most concerning match ups rest along the interior of the line. The marquee matchup will be between Josh Sitton and Ndamukong Suh. This class of the Titans will feature the Lions best defensive lineman, and one of the most recognizable names of the Lions, against the Packers best offensive lineman. However, a matchup that may prove tricky for the Packers will be on the other side of the line as Evan Dietrich-Smith faces off against Nick Fairley.

When the Lions drafted Fairley last year it appeared as though there was a new dynamic defensive tackle combination brewing in the division…something akin to the "Williams Wall" in Minnesota, but injuries and disappointing play has delayed that vision for Detroit. So far Fairley has started only three games in his young career and racked up only 3.5 sacks. Of course sacks don’t tell the full story, but they do give a glimpse of a player who has not quite played to the level many were hoping for.

Despite this disappointment Fairley will still be a handful for the Packers. He is coming off the best game of his career at Minnesota where he got 4 solo tackles and a sack. It’s not unusual for a player to get hot, especially he’s getting his third start in his career.

It’s up to EDS to put a stop to that hot streak before it starts. EDS has a story similar to Fairley in some way, but very different in others. Like Fairley, this is going to be EDS’ fourth start, but it would be an understatement to say that EDS’ career has been less heralded. Smith fought his way on to the Packers’ roster in 2009 as an undrafted rookie, the only undrafted rookie to make the team that year. He then did the west coast two step, going to Seattle and then back to the Packers in 2010. Since returning to Green Bay he has found more of a spot along the offensive line and has become the utility back up for the interior line.

Now with the injury to Bryan Bulaga it looks like EDS is going to be the starting left guard for the rest of the season. The good news is that EDS has looked the part in the three games he previously started. He also looked pretty good against the Arizona Cardinals, so there is evidence to suggest that he can do his job and help the Packers contain a talented interior line for the Lions. This will be critical to getting the offense off the ground on Sunday because if the Packers’ interior line can win then there shouldn’t be a problem putting up points against the rest of this struggling defense.