The loss of Aaron Rodgers still stings in Packer nation. It feels like forever since we’ve seen him in game action. However, there’s no time to sit in the past in the Green Bay locker room.
Before their bye, the Packers looked like just another team in their loss to the Saints. While the ground game excelled early with Aaron Jones leading the way, the Saints eventually tightened up. The pressure didn’t take kindly to backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who finished with a 12/25, 87 yards and an interception line.
Tonight, the Packers will take on a Lions team that also is looking to stay alive in a tight NFC playoff picture. A win tonight for either team gives them a key tiebreaker going forward.
For the Packers, it’s time to save the season.
What does Sunday’s win mean for the Colts?
Will The Playbook Open Up?
One of the major issues with the Packers last performance revolves around the play calling. Many felt like head coach Mike McCarthy kept things simple and ultra conservative for Brett Hundley in his first start. Those critics do have fair points. Not many passes traveled further than five yards down the field, except for a deep shot that was picked off.
Now, after two full weeks to get ready, the Packers should come out with plays to ease the pressure off of Hundley. With young quarterbacks early in their playing career, play callers usually call bootlegs and simple play action reads to get the rhythm going. Since the Packers have two strong running backs in Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones, the play action should work well.
The other way to help him is to get the ball to the playmakers. Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson are both dangerous playmakers on the outside. If the Packers rotate them in the slot throughout the game, the throws will be easier and it will give Adams and Nelson a chance to make something happen after the catch. Utilizing slot receiver Randall Cobb should also be in the plan. He is the most elusive receiver on the roster, and quick hitters that give him a chance to make one move and go should also be in the plan.
They often say that the tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend in situations like this. While it isn’t always true, the Packers should certainly get the tight end position involved tonight. Martellus Bennett is out due to injury, but the Packers do have depth at the position. Lance Kendricks is plenty capable of stretching the field in the passing game. That is a match-up issue the Packers would do well to exploit.
Pass Rush Must Get To Stafford
The Lions are a dangerous offensive group, primarily due to Matthew Stafford and his weapons on the outside. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate will certainly be a problem for even a healthier Packers secondary. So how do you limit those two from doing serious damage? The easy answer? The pass rush.
Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are having excellent seasons up to this point. Clay Matthews is even getting better at defending the run, which has been his achilles heel for a long time. The Lions may have left tackle Taylor Decker back for tonight’s game, which will make things more difficult.
However, interior pressure may be the answer if Matthews and Perry are stifled early. We all know about Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark in the middle making plays. Daniels is someone who needs to be accounted for on every play. His strength and leverage make it tough for teams to find holes in the running game. Clark is playing with similar strength, eating space in the run game. While that’s all well and good, getting interior rush isn’t a big strength for either. Daniels gets there at times, but he could see double teams.
The Packers possibly have a solution to this. Rookie third round pick Montravius Adams could see more snaps tonight with Quinton Dial’s status in question. Adams hasn’t done much in 2017 to this point, but he did get the attention from scouts due to his ability to generate pressure from the interior. Giving him more snaps tonight will be key to slowing the rhythm of the Lions offense.
Three Match-ups To Watch
Randall Cobb/Jordy Nelson/Davante Adams vs. Quandre Diggs
Quandre Diggs mainly plays as the nickel corner in the slot. The Packers will likely have three receivers out on offense more than last week, so Diggs will get the call. However, this task is not easy. Randall Cobb is an elusive player in the slot, and he thrives at making one cut and getting yards after the catch. It’s possible that Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams will see slot time. Winning this matchup is important for the Packers to sustain drives, especially on third downs.
Packers Offensive Line vs. Lions Front Seven
Protecting Brett Hundley was an issue for the Packers against the Saints two weeks ago. Now, with two weeks to get healthy, the offensive line may be at full strength, barring the status of Lane Taylor. The Lions have players on the defensive line who consistently get after the quarterback. Ziggy Ansah and Anthony Zettel are two guys to keep an eye on. Plus, rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis often comes on a blitz for the Lions when they bring it. If the Packers line can hold up, they will be in the game all night.
Packers Slot Corner vs. Golden Tate
Noticing a theme yet? The slot is as important as any spot on the field tonight. Many third downs will be decided there. The Packers like their odds with Kevin King and Davon House worrying about Marvin Jones. The one guy who may give them headaches is Golden Tate. His quickness in the slot is nearly unmatched, so finding someone to keep him in check is key. Damarious Randall will likely start in the slot, but giving guys like Josh Jones a chance may be in the cards. Jones’ physicality could be very helpful in that matchup.
The Packers need a win to keep their season afloat, and the momentum from this win could keep them going. There isn’t a better place to make a statement than under the Monday night lights.
Jake Schyvinck covers the Packers for cover32. Follow him on Twitter here.