The Green Bay Packers have swept their season series against the Detroit Lions 11 times since the turn of the century. But theres no doubt, the Packers sweep in 2019 was one of the strangest youll ever see.
Green Bay defeated the Lions, 23-22, in Week 6 when Mason Crosby drilled a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Packers overcame a 13-point deficit that night and didnt take their first lead until no time was left on the clock.
Green Bay also trailed by 14 points in a Week 17 matchup. Once again, though, Crosby made a field goal as time expired to give the Packers a 23-20 win and their only lead of the day.
The fact that they were winning for literally 120 minutes out of 120 minutes, I mean it was pretty much a miracle that we were able to take both those games, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said this week. So, you know, its going to be a tough game and were going to have to prepare to the best of our ability throughout the course of the week in order for us to go out there and come away with a winning performance.
Green Bay (1-0) hosts Detroit (0-1) Sunday at noon at Lambeau Field. Heres a look at each positional group and which team has the edge.
Detroits Matthew Stafford was on pace for a huge 2019 season after throwing for 19 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards in the first eight games. But Stafford was diagnosed with non-displaced fractures in his upper thoracic spine after Week 8 and had his streak of 136 straight starts snapped.
Stafford and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were in perfect sync, as Stafford averaged a career-high 8.59 yards per pass attempt and had a career-best 106.0 passer rating. After Stafford went down, the Lions went 0-8.
He seems fully recovered, still has elite arm talent and could be ready for a big year.
This guy has been doing it for a long time and I think hes one of the more vastly underrated quarterbacks in the league, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. He doesnt get the credit on the national stage, but hes always put up a ton of yards, a ton of points and hes obviously one of the best quarterbacks well go against and unfortunately we have to do it twice.
Green Bays Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns, completed 32 of 44 passes (72.7%) for 364 yards, and was razor sharp from start to finish in Week 1. After a few lackluster seasons, Rodgers turned back the clock last week and had one of the better performances of his career.
He's so hard to play against, and so difficult to defend, Lions coach Matt Patricia said of Rodgers. One of the things I say about Aaron Rodgers all the time, he's so calm, he's just so collected the entire time he's out on the field.
Green Bay got off to a terrific start last week, rushing for 158 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Aaron Jones led the way with 66 yards and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. But Tyler Ervin added 38 yards on three jet sweeps (12.7).
I was just trying to fulfill a need and do whatever the coaches asked me to do, Ervin said. The transition is just going out there and playing ball, whether its receiver or running back.
Detroit signed ageless Adrian Peterson on Sept. 6 and he ran for 93 yards on 14 carries (6.6) in his Lions debut. Peterson, a first-round draft pick in 2007, ranks fifth all-time in rushing yards (14,309) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (111)
Its pretty amazing, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Peterson. Hes been at it a long time and been doing it at a really high level. So, hes definitely defying the odds because I look at what he did last week, too and he still looked explosive and dynamic. So were going to have to make sure that we try to contain him as best we can because he is an elite back.
Many considered rookie second round draft choice DAndre Swift the best running back in the 2020 draft, but he dropped a game-winning pass against Chicago last week. Holdover Karryon Johnson led the Lions in rushing a year ago with 403 yards.
Green Bays Davante Adams had 14 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. He finished with 43.8% of Green Bays receptions and was targeted on 17 of 41 passes thrown by Aaron Rodgers (41.5%).
The way we move in this offense is a lot different than the offense we were in before, Adams said. It takes a little bit of time to get fully comfortable. I think everybodys at that point. Aaron (Rodgers) can count on people being in the spots consistently that theyre supposed to be.
Inconsistent Marquez Valdes-Scantling had four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. But he also had two maddening drops preventing him from having an enormous day.
Detroit will be without standout Kenny Golladay, who led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches last year and is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Marvin Jones, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 10 last year, becomes the No. 1. Veteran slot man Danny Amendola is still dangerous, while rookie Quintez Cephus a former University of Wisconsin player had 10 targets in Week 1.
Second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson, the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft, seems poised for a big year. Hockenson had five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and could be a matchup nightmare for Green Bay.
Certainly some of the game plan plays that we had that I thought were well designed to try to get T.J. the ball in some of those situations were really good, Lions coach Matt Patricia said. And (Matt Stafford and Hockenson), they spend a lot of time on them in the meeting room, but on the field maybe during the extra stuff, not just during the team periods.
Green Bay right tackle/guard Billy Turner (knee) and interior lineman Lucas Patrick (shoulder) are both questionable. If neither player can go, the Packers have major issues up front and will need rookie guard Jon Runyan and veteran right tackle Rick Wagner to stand and deliver.
The Packers were forced to juggle things up front last week and the line played extremely well, allowing no sacks and just two pressures.
I felt guys stepped up in a big way across the board, Packers center Corey Linsley said of Green Bays performance against Minnesota last week. They brought a lot of pressure, some unique, some stuff weve seen in the past. All in all, we had a good day upfront and we have to continue to do it.
Detroits best offensive lineman is center Frank Ragnow, who ranked sixth among all centers by Pro Football Focus last year. Taylor Decker is in the top half of left tackles, while rookie right guard Jonah Jackson has terrific upside.
Injuries could wreak havoc for the Lions, though, as well.
Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who signed a five-year, $45 million contract to leave Philadelphia, is questionable with a foot injury. Left guard Joe Dahl, an above average starter, was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a groin injury.
Green Bay will be without standout nose tackle Kenny Clark (groin), leaving its mediocre unit without its top player.
The three players expected to start up front Sunday Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke were all shutout statistically last week.
That's a group, they did some good things, but they made some mistakes, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of his defensive line. This is a week, this is a challenge for us from an offensive line standpoint. They're very different from Minnesota, they're much more downhill runs, double teams, gap scheme that we're going to have to be pretty darned good with our technique to avoid getting knocked off the ball and allowing holes to be punched up front."
Detroit signed ex-Patriot Trey Flowers to a five year, $90 million deal in free agency in March, 2019, that included $56 million in guarantees. Flowers then had a big first year in Detroit with 7.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Lions ripped the rest of the unit apart, though.
Detroit signed tackles Danny Shelton and Nick Williams to beef up the middle of their line. Williams will miss Sundays game, though, with a shoulder injury.
Promising DaShawn Hand, a fourth-round pick in 2018, mans the other end spot. Hand missed 13 games last year with a variety of injuries, but could be a difference maker if he can stay healthy.
The Lions gave ex-Patriot Jamie Collins a three-year, $30 million deal to man the edge. Jarrad Davis held off stiff competition for the middle linebacker job this summer, while veteran Christian Jones is steady, but far from spectacular.
Green Bay received an unexpected lift from undrafted rookie inside linebacker Krys Barnes in Week 1. Barnes played just 15 snaps, but finished with six tackles and a team-best two tackles for loss.
To be able to come out on that field and to be able to stay calm, be able to stay in place and do my 1/11th was the biggest thing for me, Barnes said. So definitely felt good. It's one of the dreams I've dreamt of since I was a kid, so to be able to accomplish that was definitely a blessing.
The Lions ranked 32nd in passing yards allowed (284.4) and 27th in opponent passer rating (99.6) a year ago.
Detroit used the third pick of the draft on cornerback Jeff Okudah. The former Ohio State standout will make his NFL debut Sunday after missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury.
Veteran corner Desmond Trufant, who was signed from Atlanta, is out with a hamstring injury, while nickelback Darryl Roberts will also miss with a calf injury.
That means second year man Amani Oruwariye, who developed quickly as a rookie, will start opposite Okudah.
Tracy Walker, a first-year starter at free safety in 2019, is coming off a highly productive year. Detroit also traded for ex-Patroit Duron Harmon, and he won the strong safety job in camp.
Green Bays secondary was up and down in Week 1.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander made some big plays with an interception and a safety. But the unit had its share of blunders, allowing Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins to throw for 259 yards, two touchdowns and post a 118.6 passer rating.
When you give up certain plays, it only has to be one guy out of place for big plays to happen, Packers safety Adrian Amos said. So we just have to be crisp in what we do, we have to detail out what we're doing as far as in the run and in the pass. Just little things that we can iron out, and things that are easily fixed.
Detroits Matt Prater ranks among the top kickers in the league. Prater has made 83.7% of his field goals since entering the NFL in 2007 and 85.6% since joining Detroit in 2015.
Jack Fox won the punting job in training camp and had a stellar debut last week. Rookie speedster Ty Johnson earned the kick returner job this summer, while Jamal Agnew is a nifty punt returner.
Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby has made 32 of his last 34 regular season field goals (94.1%) dating back to Week 15 of 2018.
Green Bays Matt LaFleur is off to a 7-0 start in the NFC North, which is tied for the fourth-most wins in NFL history to start a head coaching career. LaFleur is also off to a 14-3 start overall, and became the first head coach in team history to lead the Packers to a division title in his first season.
Detroits Matt Patricia is just 9-23-1 (.288) overall and the Lions have been last in the NFC North in both of his seasons. If Detroit doesnt make major strides this year, Patricia will almost certainly be somewhere else in 2021.
Prediction: Packers 30, Lions 24
Season Record: 1-0