For a fairly long time it was safe to assume the Packers could just roll out the football and more or less expect to beat the Lions, but that’s no longer the case. The Packers have lost three straight to the Lions and seven of their last 12 dating back to the start of the 2017 season.
It’s been a rough go against the Lions, to say the least, and as Detroit’s star continues to rise, the going may only get tougher. Are the Detroit Lions a great team? No, not necessarily, but they’re talented, tenacious, and a little bit unhinged, all of which comes together in a dangerous package.
What scares our writers the most about the Lions this week? We asked our writers. Here’s what they had to say.
Tex Western: Amon-Ra St. Brown
The younger (and better) St. Brown brother is off to a torrid start this season. Amon-Ra has the following stat lines in three games:
6 catches, 9 targets, 71 yards, 1 TD
6 catches, 7 targets, 102 yards
9 catches, 11 targets, 102 yards
That is elite production, and he has lined up in the slot on almost exactly half of his snaps this season. There is ample reason to be concerned that he may have a similarly big game on Thursday night, especially if he is in the slot with regularity. Although Keisean Nixon is an aggressive tackler as a slot corner, his coverage ability is inconsistent and you can pick on him a bit. For example, Pro Football Reference charged him with 7 completions, 53 yards, and a touchdown on 8 targets into his coverage in the Packers’ week 1 game against the Chicago Bears. With a better quarterback-receiver combo targeting him this week, those numbers are concerning, and St. Brown’s hot start and track record make him my biggest focal point on the Lions’ offense for Joe Barry and company to try to contain.
Paul: A Good O-Line (When Healthy)
The Lions are well-designed, and on offense, that design starts up front. Jared Goff is one of the strangest quarterbacks in the league based on his split with and without pressure. When he has a clean pocket, no quarterback outside of Mahomes (and maybe Tua this year) is better, but he absolutely falls off a cliff under pressure. Fortunately for the Lions, they almost never allow any pressure, and so this marriage works well.
The other advantage the line confers is in the running game, where rookie Jahmyr Gibbs has been extremely impressive, showing elite elusiveness, tackle-breaking, and value in the passing game. The Saints couldn’t really run-block to save their lives, but this game will probably look more like the Atlanta game, and I suspect Gibbs and Bijan Robinson end up with similar efforts. Detroit’s line has been injured lately, and if the majority of those injured players can’t go Thursday, it will be a huge break for the Packers. If the Lions are fully loaded, it will be a long day.
Jon Meerdink: Chaos
Maybe it’s Dan Campbell as Kris writes below, maybe it’s some sort of weird curse dating back to George Plimpton. I don’t know, but the Packers don’t seem to be able to just play a normal game against the Lions lately.
They’ve lost three straight to Detroit, and each of them have been weird and occasionally wild games. Last year’s season-ending loss to the Lions was its own kind of shock, especially considering the roll the Packers had been on, but there was also the Packers’ Week 9 loss in Detroit that featured no end of injuries and weirdness on the Packers’ side. Then you have the Packers’ loss to the Lions at the end of the 2021 regular season, which featured David Bakhtiari’s ill-fated return from an ACL injury and Marquez Valdes-Scantling hurting his back badly enough that he had to be sidelined for the Packers’ Divisional Round loss to the 49ers two weeks later.
And that’s just the last three. You can find plenty more examples in the recent history between these two teams. Shootouts, shutouts, Hail Marys, and more. It’s all there. Add in some Thursday Night Football, a pile of injuries on both sides, and it looks like another chaotic — and frightening — game in the works.
Kris Burke: Dan Campbell
If you’ve seen anything about Campbell, you know he might be a crazy person.
He’s also a darn good football coach. His rhetoric might be a little strange at times (kneecaps don’t make a good meal), but he’s gotten Detroit to believe again. We’ve seen optimism about the Lions before only for it to flame out but this time feels different.
It’s not the most talented roster in the league (or maybe even in the division), but Campbell’s got them punching above their weight. They’re sound offensively and have some pieces on defense. They should be the favorites to win the division for the first time in over 30 years, which is equivalent to a Super Bowl in Detroit.
These aren’t the same old Lions and Campbell is a big reason why.