Preview: Packers Put Season on the Line at Detroit on Thanksgiving

On a short week coming off of a tie against the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday, the Packers head to Detroit to take on the Lions in a crucial division matchup. The Lions(6-5) are coming off of a tough loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the first meeting at Lambeau the Packers had little trouble with the Lions. The 22-9 victory is somewhat deceiving considering the Packers did not give up a touchdown until two minutes left in the game when it was out of reach. The Packers turn to Matt Flynn while trying to pick up their first win since Aaron Rodgers got hurt.

What to Watch For: Matt Flynn vs. the Lions sure does bring back memories. The Packers were 14-1 in the 2011-2012 season heading into Week 17. Having locked up the top seed in the NFC, the Packers decided to rest Rodgers, along with some other key players. Didn’t matter. Matt Flynn threw for a franchise record 480 yards and 6 touchdowns and led Green Bay to a 45-41 victory and a 15-1 record.

Can we expect the same magic from Flynn at Detroit? Most likely not, but based on last week’s comeback performance it seems as though Flynn is the best option for the Packers right now. He should have no problem throwing the ball against the NFL’s 28th ranked pass defense.

Key Matchups

Calvin Johnson vs. The Packers Secondary: Calvin Johnson is hands down the best receiver in the NFL today. The Detroit offense is dependent on how he performs week in and week out. The Packers secondary has been below average for most of the season and could be in for a long day trying to cover Calvin. Sam Shields returns to the field after missing some time with a hamstring injury. Shields has had some promising performances but Calvin Johnson is another breed of receiver size and skill-wise. It will be interesting to see how the Packers plan on helping Shields in order to contain Johnson Thursday.

The Packers Offensive Line vs. The Lions Defensive Line: Surprisingly, the Packers offensive line has done a decent job of protecting the quarterback so far this season. They will be put to the test Thursday when facing the fierce pass-rush of the Lions which includes Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. There is no love lost between the Packers offensive line and the Lions Defensive line. The trash talk has already begun with OL Josh Sitton calling out the Lions for being “scumbags” and “dirtbags”. In turn, the Lions claim that they are team that got Flynn his contract with Seattle. Clearly, this game will not lack intensity.

The Green Bay running game has been a major part of the offense this year. The lions front four is one of the best in the league and they are only allowing 88 yards per game on the ground. It will be a tough test for Lacy and Starks, but with the way the Packers offensive line has been playing, they will have a chance at running the ball successfully.

Reggie Bush vs. The Packers Defense: Reggie Bush is dangerous with the ball in his hands, whether that be catching passes or running the ball. Like the first game, it is important for the Packers to take him out of the game and prevent the big play. Without Calvin Johnson to worry about the first matchup, it was much easier for the Packers to focus on Bush and shut him down. This time it will be a much tougher task containing both players. Having Johnny Jolly back should help against the run, but the defense has been vulnerable of late and few people know what to expect tomorrow. Bush is most dangerous when he gets to the outside and into the open field. It will be important for the Green Bay defense not to let him bounce it outside. To state the obvious, wrapping up Bush will be key because one missed tackle could be the difference between a loss of yards or a touchdown.

Prediction: This could be the game that saves Green Bay’s season. The offense will finally have a little rhythm this week with Matt Flynn in charge. The Packers score late, and Matt Stafford will throw his usual game-ending interception. Packers win in a shootout, 31-30.

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