Thursday, November 15, 2012
Packers-Lions: Tough task for Lions' D
By Kevin Seifert
Around here, we learned yet another lesson about the limits of conventional wisdom last week. Playing without leading receiver Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings completed 75 percent of their passes and put up 221 passing yards in a 34-24 surprise over the Detroit Lions.
Conventional wisdom, of course, would suggest that underwhelming performance by the Lions pass defense doesn't bode well for Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might not have played to his 2011 MVP standards this season, but he has thrown 15 touchdown passes and just one interception during the Packers' four game winning streak. Receiver Jordy Nelson (ankle) has returned to practice, and this matchup certainly appears to favor the Packers strongly.
Nelson, along with fellow receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb, will face a secondary that is likely once again to start a pair of backup safeties in Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva. Cornerback Chris Houston returned to practice Thursday and told reporters he will play Sunday, but he is dealing with an ankle injury serious enough to prevent him from returning to last Sunday's game at the Metrodome. There has been some speculation that the Lions could activate veteran cornerback Drayton Florence from injured reserve for reinforcement, but as of Thursday afternoon, no move had been made.
The Packers' offensive weakness this season has been sacks; Rodgers taken an NFL-high 29 of them. Is the Lions defensive line/pass rush up to the task, especially against a Packers offensive line that will feature a new right tackle (T.J. Lang) and left guard (Evan Dietrich-Smith)?
We noted earlier this week that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a strong game against the Vikings despite a light statistical line. But almost sacking Rodgers doesn't mean as much as it would against other quarterbacks. And the bottom line, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is that the Lions are averaging one sack for every 18.1 opposing dropbacks, ranking No. 19 overall in the NFL.
As we learned last week, the moment you think you have this game figured out, it takes a sharp turn on you. But if conventional wisdom holds this week, it's difficult to envision how the Lions will stop the Packers' offense. Overall, the Packers have won 12 of their past 13 games against them, and that lone victory came in 2010, which Rodgers did not finish because of a concussion. That's the view from here, at least. But you already know how much I know.