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Packers vs. Lions Q&A: One-dimensional Lions still offer challenge to NFC North

Chris Perfett of SB Nation’s Detroit Lions blog Pride of Detroit answers our questions about first-time head coach Matt Patricia, Detroit’s talented receiving corps, and what he expects from Packers versus Lions.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers face off against the Detroit Lions for the first time this season. Chris Perfett of Pride of Detroit was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the Lions and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

APC: Through four weeks, we have seen one extremely ugly performance from the Lions (Week 1’s 48-17 home stomping to the Jets), one impressive showing (Week 3’s 26-10 upset of the Patriots), and two hard-fought losses (Weeks 2 and 4). The sample remains small, but do you have a feel yet for what Detroit will be in 2018?

Those two close losses are probably the best bet on the character of this time. That’s to say, therefore, that this team isn’t much more than an extension of the end of the 2017 season. Sloppy in execution, slow to get started on offense, struggling to get the run game going, giving up way too much on defense and relying too often on a dynamic, multi-threat passing attack to keep them viable in the second half. The Lions won a lot of these types of games in 2016, and since then they’ve been stuck figuring out how to recapture that magic. It’s not ideal, but I fear we’re retreading old ground right now. Whatever changes were meant to come in 2018, we haven’t seen them yet, save one excellently planned game against the Patriots.

APC: Though the Vikings generally garner more attention for their receiver tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Lions offer a deeper group headlined by Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Detroit’s receiving corps and how do you think the group compares to others in the league?

Golden Tate defies expectations at this point. He’s elusive and dangerous, one of those snakes that would rather just bite the hell out of you than warn you that it’s here. Once he catches the ball, he’s gonna go somewhere with it. He’s extremely good and he should be paid.

Marvin Jones is a workhorse and a fighter, and Kenny Golladay has become an emerging deep threat. They round out a pretty decent group, but now the team is hampered by inside receiving. There’s no real tight end to lean on now that Eric Ebron is off catching, uh, a lot of touchdowns for Indianapolis. Tate lines up both inside and out, so he provides some stability in the slot in that way.

All in all it’s probably one of the best in the NFC North - Stefon Diggs has them beat in individual talent but the trio together is a threat to strike anywhere on the field, with Tate proving he’s probably even a step above the rest as well. It’s a lot for Stafford to work with, and each week can prove interesting to watch how the receiving numbers play out.

APC: After the first quarter of the season, the Lions defense ranks 24th in points allowed (28.5 per game) and 27th in DVOA. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Ansah hasn’t played since the season opener and Quandre Diggs reportedly has a broken hand. What do you make of this unit, and how do you think it matches up with the Packers offense?

It sucks. It’s really bad and outside of Darius Slay it’s an affront to the football gods, if they actually existed. They don’t. I’m a football god atheist. Your silly superstitions don’t work on me.

The linebackers are getting...better. I think I can say better. I don’t know if anyone else will, but we’re seeing flashes out of Jarrad Davis, which is refreshing. Unfortunately the scheme that has been implemented by the new coaching staff is taking time and faces some personnel mismatches. Ansah’s status goes a long way in this regard, but I don’t think much of him as an edge rusher as of late even when he is in.

APC: If you were game planning against the Lions, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?

Attacking the Lions offense: Pressure on the offensive line. Without TJ Lang, there’s opportunities to be had. If Stafford get out of rhythm he’ll make mistakes. If the Lions can’t run the ball their game plan will panic and focus on aerial assault. The point of attack against the Lions is just stopping it before it gets situated.

Attacking the Lions defense: I dunno. Just do things. Anything, really. This defense is so bad. Just do football things and they’ll look spooked. It’s all fine.

APC: Finally, it’s prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?

How would the Packers like to go 2-1-2? I’m down for it.

We’d like to thank Chris and Pride of Detroit for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Lions. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers versus Lions.