Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Week 12: Green Bay at Detroit
Finally! Football fans have been waiting all season for tomorrow’s showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions! How will the league’s best quarterback handle Detroit’s front four? How can a spotty Green Bay secondary limit Calvin Johnson? Can Green Bay’s offensive line keep Aaron Rodgers upright and avoid a repeat of last year’s devastating loss at Ford Field? Let’s look at a couple of issues for this game:
The O-line. It’s hard not to worry about Aaron in this game. Last time he took the field in Detroit, he suffered his second concussion of the season. I think Detroit’s defensive line is going to be a huge challenge for the Packers. Detroit is able to bring pressure without blitzing, which is key since anyone who has watched Rodgers knows, you don’t blitz #12. Rodgers has a passer rating of almost 140 and a 70% completion rate when facing the blitz. But given their impressive talent, Detroit can get to opposing quarterbacks without having to bring extra men.
Run game. Detroit has a surprisingly poor run defense, ranked 27th in the league. The Packers’ running game took a hit on Sunday when James Starks injured both his knee and his ankle. Thankfully, his injuries do not seem to be as serious as they appeared (Starks credits this to being bow-legged) and he still has a chance to play on Thursday. I think the Packers should hold him out, even if he is able to play. It’s a short week, don’t risk making the injury worse - they’ll need him later in the season. And despite everyone in the world being down on Ryan Grant, I like the guy. He’s not amazingly fast or shifty, but he can pick up ugly, necessary yards. As a back that improves with more carries, Grant’s had a hard time of it this season, considering the low number of carries he’s been given. I think he could have a big game on Thursdays if he gets the opportunities.
Who covers Megatron? It’ll be interesting to see how the Packers’ defense tries to handle Calvin Johnson. Jermichael Finley offered his suggestions, encouraging physical play. I think he’s right - the Packers should be willing to take a few flags when it comes to covering Calvin Johnson if it means bumping him out of a comfortable rhythm. To that end, I think Charles Woodson might be the best option. If anyone knows how to play physically in coverage, it’s Woodson, though Tramon Williams might have a bit more of Johnson’s speed than Woodson. No matter who is covering Johnson, the safeties really have to be accountable in order to allow Woodson or Williams or whomever to challenge Johnson’s receptions. The Packers can’t sleep on Detroit’s other receivers, either, as Matthew Stafford has been finding ways to take advantage of the attention Johnson necessarily draws. On Sunday, for example, none of Detroit’s five passing touchdowns were to Johnson.
Keep forcing turnovers. The Packers’ defense continue to lead the league in interceptions with 19, and it’s their ability to force turnovers that has prevented them from being a scapegoat in a Packers’ loss. The more often the defense can get Aaron Rodgers back on the field on Thursday, the better the chances of us all spending the dinner being thankful for an 11-0 record.