If ever there was a must win game in Week 3 of the season, the Green Bay Packers are facing one Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Detroit Lions.
Sure the Packers' 1-1 record on its own is by no mean an indication that the sky is falling, but if you followed the news around the team this week you know how important this game is for Green Bay.
Following last Sunday's 17-14 loss to the a Minnesota Vikings, questions arose at a fever pitch regarding the Packers' offense. For nearly a year now, the offense has looked like a shell of its former self and some have even called quarterback Aaron Rodgers into question. Is something wrong with him? Are he and coach Mike McCarthy not getting along?
Rodgers terse answers during media availability raised even more eyebrows. All eyes are on the Packers and their MVP quarterback this weekend.
Here are five things to watch as Green Bay tries to right the ship against the Lions.
1.Aaron Rodgers: "Shhhh..." or "Sh*t!"?
Rodgers is absolutely lethal when he has a big chip on his shoulder, and he will have a huge one this week after all the scrutiny he has come under from fans and the media.
The last time he was under this kind of pressure was in 2012 when the offense again was in a but of a funk, especially since the year before the Packers set all kinds of records and went 15-1. The Packers faced the Houston Texans on Sunday night in Week 6 and clobbered them 42-24. Rodgers threw six touchdowns and famously told his critics "shhhh...." in a post game interview with Michelle Tafoya.
Will Rodgers have the same performance against Detroit and shut all the critics up? He almost has to because if he and the offense play poorly and the Packers lose, then things will get even uglier for Rodgers.
2. Eddie Lacy: Putting the offense on his back?
With Rodgers and the passing game out of sync, it might be up to Eddie Lacy to carry the offense until they can straighten things out.
The Lions will be without Ziggy Ansah so this is a golden opportunity for Lacy to prove that he is back in form after spending all of 2015 out of shape and out of sorts. Now that he in a contract year, it is crucial that Lacy have a strong season and it needs to start against Detroit.
The bigger question here however is whether McCarthy will actually commit to the run. The coach is desperate to get his quarterback on track, but McCarthy cannot shy away from Lacy and/or Starks if they develop a hot hand against the Lions.
He has proven unable to do so far this season so this bears watching closely.
3. Matthew Stafford 2.0?
Ever since Jim Bob Cooter became the Lions' offensive coordinator midway through last season, Matthew Stafford has been a different quarterback. No longer is he a turnover machine forcing balls into windows they don't belong and instead he is now a much more efficient passer.
The fact Stafford picked up where he left off without the presence of the retired Calvin Johnson is a credit to Cooter's coaching. Everyone saw what happened in Green Bay without Jordy Nelson last season, which makes Stafford's continued improved play all the more impressive.
Green Bay will need to pressure Stafford early and often to try and force him into some old habits. With Sam Shields' availability still in question, the secondary will have to be up to the task. Damarious Randall cannot get torched again like he did by Sam Bradford last week. He will be challenged by Golden Tate, so Randall will need to shake off last week rather quickly.
4. Eric Ebron vs Green Bay's inside linebackers.
Eric Ebron presents a big test for the Packers' young inside linebackers. Green Bay has struggled defending the middle of the field this season, so Joe Thomas, Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan will need to be on their toes against the big Lions tight end.
The Packers gave up a touchdown to Ebron last December in the red zone which means the ILBs will really need to lock it down if and when the situation arises.
5. Field Position, or "Why Punters Matter"
Thanks to the struggles of Jacob Schum, whom the Packers signed literally at the end of training camp, the defense has not been put in very advantageous situations. Thankfully, they've done a decent job regardless of where the punts land.
Right now Schum is averaging 41.9 net yards per punt and had a dismal 38.6 average against the Vikings. Of course the offense has not been putting him in very helpful spots, but he has to do a better job to help the defense. If it is going to take time for the offense to correct itself, the defense will need all the help it can get.
Packers 24, Lions 17
It won't be nearly enough to fully silence all the critics, but it will be a start as the Packers jump out to an early lead.
The Packers show some flashes on offense yet still sputter at times. Fixing the offense will not be an overnight correction, but hopefully this is a sign of life for the Packers as they head into the bye with a 2-1 record.