By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
Tonight’s edition of Monday Night Football will feature the Green Bay Packers hosting the Detroit Lions at the iconic Lambeau Field. Entering this game, Vegas favors the Lions by 2.5 points, whose 2017 record sits at 3-4, and has posted an over-under of 43.5 points. This snub is a rarity for the Packers, who usually dominate match-ups at home and are coming off their bye week, but understandable given their recent circumstances.
The Packers opened the season in their typically dominant fashion, winning four of their five first games with Aaron Rodgers under center. After an injury to his collarbone took him out in the first quarter of their Week 6 game against the Minnesota Vikings; however, Rodgers was placed on the injury reserve. He is not likely to return for the season, leaving the Packers without their starter for this 2017 endeavor.
Since that game, backup quarterback Brett Hundley has taken the reigns, and the Packers have struggled with him under center. They have been unable to replicate their early success, losing against the Vikings 23-10 and again against the New Orleans Saints 23-17. Heading into this game off of their bye, their record is 4-3 and fading fast.
The tape isn’t for the new Packers. Hundley’s performance against the Vikings was disastrous, completing 18 of 33 pass attempts for 157 yards, a touchdown, and three — count it, three — interceptions. It did stabilize somewhat the next week, where Hundley completed just under half of his pass attempts in his game against the Saints, netting a rushing touchdown, but going just 12 for 25 and 87 yards.
The Packers have an elite arsenal of offensive tools that in most situations would be enough to give them the edge. Jordy Nelson is one of the best wide receivers in football, a former Pro Bowler and Superbowl Champ. Aaron Jones has been looking great after taking over at running back for Ty Montgomery, rushing for over 100 yards in two of his last four games. Montgomery, who has been nursing a rib injury, should also be at full health after the bye, giving the Packers more diversity in a run game they’re sure to lean on with an inexperienced quarterback.
But against a stout Lions defense, I don’t think it will be enough. Detroit is fine as a pass defense, they’re good at turning over the ball and currently rank in the middle of the league at 16th. But their run defense is elite, second only to the Philadelphia Eagles in rushing yards allowed, and if the Packers are going to be relying on that they’re going to face a lot of issues.
Pro-bowler Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, who is tied for team leader in sacks on the season at 4 with fellow defensive end Anthony Zettel, is a big name that attracts a lot of praise, but the defense as a whole has been sturdy. Four defensive players — Tahir Whitehead, Tavon Wilson, Glover Quin, and Jarrad Davis — have registered over thirty solo and assisted tackles this season. The defense has also picked up 10 interceptions, three of which were converted into defensive touchdowns, and also forced 10 fumbles.
The Packers defense, on the other hand, is currently ranked 25th against the run and 31st against the pass, ahead of only the Chicago Bears in the latter category. The Lions aren’t necessarily an elite offense, but Matthew Stafford has been having a fine season. Last week, he passed for over 400 yards in their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He currently sits at 1.851 passing yards, 17th on the season among quarterbacks.
More importantly, he has offensive tools in the passing attack that he can use against the Packers. While Detroit’s ground game has been less than stellar, wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have each done very well for themselves this season, as most would expect. Kenny Golladay, if he can play, should further increase their passing efficiency, but in his absence, T.J. Jones has also managed to do fairly well, picking up over 150 receiving yards in his last two games.
The Lions and Packers have the longest running divisional rivalry in the NFL, kicking off in 1930. The Packers currently lead it 100-68-7, but that lead is going to shrink after this game. I don’t think this game is going to be close given the weakened state of the Packers, in spite of being fresh off a bye and at Lambeau. My prediction is the Lions blow out the Packers to the tune of 31-10 and viewers are left wondering why this game is the one that made it to Monday Night Football, long-time rivalry or not.
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