For Thanksgiving, the Packers meet NFC North leading Detroit for the second time this season. Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit was kind enough to answer some questions about the Lions and provide some insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: After 11 games, what's the prevailing notion regarding Matthew Stafford's season? Has he finally reached his potential, or is there still some steps he needs to take to enter the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks?
I still don't think he's completely maxed out his potential. From a physical standpoint, he can make all of the throws you want out of an elite NFL quarterback, but he is still just not consistent enough, as evidenced by his four-interception game on Sunday. There are too many times where he misses an open receiver or doesn't put enough touch on a pass, and he is often caught trying to force the ball into traffic. Granted, that often works when the intended target is Calvin Johnson, but Stafford needs to be more consistent to truly take that next step as an NFL quarterback.
APC: When the Packers and Lions first met back in week 5, the Detroit defense struggled to defend the deep ball as three players registering receptions of 20 yards or more. Eight weeks later, have the Lions made adjustments to their secondary?
I actually think the secondary is worse since the first time these two teams met. Chris Houston's rough season has continued, and Rashean Mathis' play has been concerning as of late. Rookie Darius Slay looks like a rookie when he actually gets to play cornerback, and as a whole, the secondary is quite a mess. No matter who the opposing quarterback is, the secondary allows too many big plays to happen, and I don't see any adjustments being made to change that. It's by far the most concerning aspect of the team right now.
APC: Has someone on the Lions' offense emerged opposite of Calvin Johnson? If not, who should the Packers be most concerned about besides Megatron?
Kris Durham did a pretty solid job of serving as the Lions' No. 2 receiver when Nate Burleson was out. And on Sunday, Burleson returned and had 7 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Lions are still lacking a non-Megatron deep threat, but they won't be able to fix that problem until the offseason. For now, Burleson looks like a solid complement to Johnson, and Durham and tight end Brandon Pettigrew have stepped it up as well. None of these players are overly concerning for opponents, but the Packers have to be careful to not let Burleson consistently beat them because they are too focused on Megatron.
APC: If you were game planning against the Lions, how would you attack them on offense and defense?
The game plan against the defense is pretty simple: throw and throw often. The Lions have an outstanding run defense, but as mentioned earlier, the secondary is quite awful. I wouldn't spend too much time trying to establish the run or anything like that. Quick passes work extremely well to keep the Lions' D-line from getting to the quarterback, and deep passes seem to hit more often than not.
As for stopping the offense, I really think pressure is key. Stafford is at his best when he's in rhythm and has time to find somebody in the passing game, as are most quarterbacks. When there's pressure, he can get quite rattled, leading to some poor decisions. Do that and keep Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in check on the ground and there's a recipe for success against the Detroit offense.
APC: Finally, prediction time. Who wins on Thanksgiving and why?
The Lions have not won on Thanksgiving since 2003, when they beat the Packers by a score of 22-14. I think this is the year the streak comes to an end for two big reasons. For starters, the Lions are a pretty healthy team all things considered, and they won't be going into this game with Kris Durham as their best receiver, unlike the first meeting in Green Bay earlier in the season. Also, despite what happened the last time the Lions faced Matt Flynn, I think the defense will do enough to contain the Packers offense with home-field advantage on their side. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but I don't want to think about the prospect of a 10-game losing streak on Turkey Day.
We'd like to thank Sean 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 Thursday for our comprehensive game day coverage of Packers vs. Lions.
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