Packers vs Lions: Gameday Preview - 2021 Week 2

The Packers and Lions both lost in Week 1, but only one of them looked pathetic and incapable. Will the trend continue this week?

The Packers have their home opener tonight and face the same-old new-look Lions on Monday Night Football as they try to rinse the taste of vomit out of their mouths after getting paddled by the Saints.

The last time these teams met, the Packers won 31-24 in a game that was surprisingly close in the first half before the Packers pulled away in the 2nd half. That game marked Green's Bays 4th consecutive win in the rivalry, after they incredibly (and hilariously) swept the Lions in 2019 despite leading in both games for a combined total of 0 minutes and 0 seconds.

These teams didn't look close heading into the season as the Packers have spent the last two years competing in the NFFCG while the Lions are trying to break a streak of 3 consecutive last-place finished in the division.

Boy what a difference a week makes.

New GM Brad Holmes has done a lot to set the table for a true renaissance in Detroit, and a promising showing Week 1 showed they are moving in the right direction.

 

WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL

In Week 1, the Packers defense struggled with assignments and often looked out of place trying to run a new system under a new defensive coordinator. Part of this could be that the Saints had a new quarterback and their offense looked different than in the past.

If that's the case, things will get even harder this week. The Lions, like the Saints, have replaced their decade-long starting quarterback with a former #1 overall pick. Unlike the Saints, who still ran a Sean Payton offense (allowing the Packers to study film for his tendencies), the Lions have a first time head coach in the offensive-minded Dan Campbell, as well as a new offensive coordinator in Anthony Lynn.

There isn't a lot of film to study on this new Lions and a very talented 49ers defense had a hard time keeping up with them. Detroit surprised San Francisco en route to racking up 33 points in the last 45 minutes (very similar to the 35 points the Saints put up on the Packers in the last 45 minutes of Week 1).

Jared Goff may not have lived up to his #1 overall pick billing, but he is talented and he made an unheralded group of skill position players productive in his first game with his new team.

The Lions let wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones leave via free agency, then did little to replace them outside of drafting Amon-Ra St. Brown in the 4th round and picking up some cheap journeymen on one-year deals.

While there may not be a lot of marquee names at receiver, the Lions do have weapons.

D'Andre Swift is a talented, versatile back who only rushed for 39 yards in Week 1, but had 8 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Jamaal Williams, who was a very capable RB2 in Green Bay, looked more than capable of a larger role in Detroit. He had 9 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown in week 1 to go with 8 catches for 56 yards.

With two dual-threat backs, the Lions have some versatility in their pass game and will tax the Packers front 7. Green Bay's defense will need to defend them pretty much the same way they defended dual threat Alvin Kamara in Week 1. The Packers actually did a pretty solid job on Kamara early, allowing only 3.5 yards per touch in the 1st quarter. Hopefully the Packers can figure out a way to keep that production up for a full game.

The biggest threat the Lions have on offense, though, is tight end TJ Hockenson. A former top 10 pick, Hockenson had the 2nd most receptions (8) and yards (97) by a tight end in Week 1. As one of the best, most-balanced tight ends in the league, Hockenson is also a good blocker.

Given Hockenson's ability to catch or block with proficiency, and the the fact that the Lions have two running backs that are capable runners and receivers, the Packers will have to deal with a lot of misdirection and will probably have a lot of trouble diagnosing plays - especially with very little film to study.

The key will be controlling the line of scrimmage and getting pressure on Goff, who is far less mobile than Jameis Winston. For his career, Goff averages less than 5 rushing yards per game and a mere 2.0 yards per carry (Winston averages three times as many yards per game and more than twice as many yards per carry).

Rookie Penei Sewell (another top 10 pick) looked like a future star at left tackle in Week 1 and will certainly challenge whoever the Packers rush against him. Sewell was slated to start at right tackle until the Lions lost Taylor Decker, their incumbent left tackle, to injury. The Packers could take advantage of the Lions rearranged line by getting more snaps for energetic rookies like TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin. Their pass rush will undoubtably be hampered with Za'Darius Smith being moved to IR this year. They'll need Preston Smith and Rashan Gary to both be more effective than they were against the Saints if they want to have a chance. Even if the Packers can get a bigger push on the line, they'll still need to figure out their coverages. 

Hockenson will be tough to match up with. The Packers can either go fast and put Jaire Alexander on him (matching up their best corner to the Lions best receiving threat, but giving up 7 inches and more than 50 pounds) or they could try for a size matchup and put 6'3 Kevin King on him (but give up a lot in overall talent). The Packers could also try to bring a safety up to guard him, but they may be preoccupied with helping on the other receivers. With a mostly-unknown group of wide receivers to go with a pair of dual-threat running backs, the Lions won't allow the Packers to key on anyone else, which means Detroit can look for matchup holes to exploit.

This may be the best offense Detroit has fielded in quite some time and right now, they have a ton of unscouted looks to throw at a Packers defense that looked absolutely lost in their first week running a new scheme.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The Lions invested in defensive line in the draft, taking Levi Onwuzurike and Alim NcNeil on Day 2 to go with Michael Brockers and Trey Flowers, to give them a formidable four man front. They also drafted physical cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu to strength a talented, if inconsistent, cornerback group.

Their most talented cornerback, former #2 overall pick Jeff Okudah, suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1.  Amani Oruwariye is now paired with the rookie Melifonwu, giving the Lions a pair of young, unproven cover corners. The strength of their defense, though, comes from their line.

The Lions may have more talent on their line than the Saints. New Orleans had better defensive ends, but Detroit has better defensive tackles. Packers blockers struggled to find cohesion and provide Aaron Rodgers with a lot of time to throw against the Saints.

Unless they expect the offensive line (full of guys who are at new positions and had never played next to each other before) to suddenly gel after a below average outing, they will need to get into a quick-rhythm passing game to take pressure off the line and move the ball through the air. While the receivers (including Randall Cobb, who only played in 15 snaps last week) have a lot of experience with Aaron Rodgers, none of them seemed comfortable or in rhythm playing against the Saints.

The Lions are missing their top corner, but the Saints were even more depleted and the Packers predictable route combos and lackadaisical effort made the New Orleans secondary look like the Legion of Boom. Matt LaFleur needs to get back to his creative route combinations to get the passing attack back on track.

Of course, the passing game could also be opened up if the Lions have to respect the Packers running game.

In Week 1, the Packers showed very little interest in establishing the run. The 49ers ran for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns with 4.7 yards per carry against the Lions. While Detroit has talent on their line, they are not invincible. Pounding AJ DIllon up the middle and mixing in a lot of Aaron Jones zones runs get Green Bay's offense back on track.

So... quick passing game with creative route combinations... establish the run with Dillon and Jones... it seems so obvious.

Just like it did in Week 1.

Let's see if they do it this time.

 

OTHER NOTES

The Lions forced two fumbles in Week 1, including one in crunch time, and will certainly be looking to strip the ball from the Packers.

MVS (with a 4.37 40 yard dash) is way faster than Detroit's starting corners of Oruwariye (4.47) and Melifonwu (4.48) 

Corey Bojorquez averaged 44 yards per punt last week (20th in the league after one week)... last year, JK Scott averaged 45.5 (18th in the league)

I look forward to seeing Jamaal Williams dancing pregame

 

FINAL THOUGHTS 

The Lions look like a team at the beginning of a rebuild that wants to find their future quarterback near the top of the draft in the next couple of years. But, as their effort against San Francisco showed last week, that doesn't mean they're tanking. The team is talented and has a big boost of confidence coming out of a near-comeback against a top team in Week 1.

The Packers have the more talented roster and a more accomplished coach, but played like they were doing OTA walkthroughs in Week 1.

Football is a game of momentum. If these teams build off their Week 1 momentum, the Packers season could be looking at a very disappointing start.

The best hope is that the Packers can feed off the home crowd energy, get some momentum on offense to make up for a defense that looks clueless, and squeak out a high-scoring win at home. I'm not overly confident, but I'll give the Packers - who have figured out a way to come out ahead against Detroit four times in a row - the benefit of the doubt... this time.

Packers 37, Lions 34

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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Comments (33)

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ricky's picture

September 20, 2021 at 11:43 am

This will be another game won or lost in the trenches. Goff may not be as mobile as Winston, but if there is no pass rush, that really doesn't matter. Do the Packers have players capable of covering the RB's? And if they make a catch, will it be a sure tackle or a lunge/arm grab and an extra few yards? Will Rodgers go for what the defense gives him, or try to go for those "chunk plays" that end up in sacks or incompletions Or, as seen last week, awful interceptions? Will King be able to bounce back from his underperformance against the Saints? Will the CB's play tighter, or allow soft coverage for easy completions? Lots of questions, and in a few hours we'll have answers. Stay tuned, but be ready for a close game.

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murf7777's picture

September 20, 2021 at 11:56 am

This packer team didn’t just become bad after one week of playing. If they give up over 21 points against Detroit at Lambeau than I will get concerned. IMO, there is no way they give up 34 points to the Lions.

We laid a major egg, but other very good teams are doing so as well. It’s weird, but if a few plays change in the first half the game things could’ve been quite different. The reality is the offense only had 3 possessions in the first half. If the defense would’ve stopped NO just one time on 3rd downs so they didn’t eat up all the clock the out come would’ve been different. . The difference in wins and losses in the NFL is quite small and many times its just a few plays within the game.

Here’s some examples of good teams struggling.
Bills get beat pretty badly, not by score, but if you watched the game it wasn’t close 16-23 and come back and smother Miami. Miami beat the Pats at their stadium. The Titans got smoked, much like the Packers in game 1, 13-38 by AZ and come back and beat Seattle 33-30 at Seattle. New Orleans smokes us and lays an egg at Carolina 7-26.

Now, look at KC, they win and lose a squeaker while giving up 29 & 36 points. Is their defense bad? They sure looked it at times. They couldn’t stop the run if their lives depending on it. Does that sound familiar. They have some very good pro-bowl players on that defense., not unlike the Packers. They were 10th in points giving up in 2020. My guess, like the Packers , they will bounce back.

This year there are 7 teams 2-0, last year there were 11 teams. There is parity in the league and one bad game doesn’t mean they are bad team, even if it was a an ugly loss. Hmmm…didn’t Tampa get smoked by NO last year? Also, it’s much better laying the egg now vs later in the season. I believe part of the reason for the ugly loss is this defense is adjusting to a new coordinator. This offense will be stellar. I’m giving the D a break as they learn a new system. Now let’s kick some lionesses ass. Maybe even take a chunk out of their knee caps…lol

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Duneslick's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:26 pm

A few plays in the first half. They were dominated for the whole game.

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murf7777's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:52 pm

Ok, your right on that part….I’m reaching on a few plays seeking the silver lining.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 20, 2021 at 06:49 pm

I think we were still in the game until the interception at 9:44. If we put that in the end zones it’s 17-10 and we’ve got a ballgame, but that didn’t happen.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 07:04 pm

It would completely change how the Saints approached the remainder of the game, and it would've kept the run-game relevant for the Packers.

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Hematite's picture

September 20, 2021 at 01:12 pm

Yeah, one third down stop in the first half would not have saved the Packers 35 point crushing loss.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 07:07 pm

Nothing in that game stays the same after that point if there's a stop. Everything changes after that. I can't guarantee that the game would have gone much better, but to say that everything else stays the same (35 points) even with a stop like that early in the game disregards cause/effect and gameflow.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 20, 2021 at 11:57 am

Very very nervous about this game.

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mbpacker's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:34 pm

Ditto!

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Coldworld's picture

September 20, 2021 at 04:25 pm

It’s not so much the result but what it may reveal for the longer term. Too many questions.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:03 pm

Not nervous at all. Rodgers will play well or he won’t. If he plays well, we have a very good chance of winning. If he doesn’t, we won’t.

IMO, the smart money is betting on Rodgers and the offense controlling this game.

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murf7777's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:41 pm

LH, I’m with you….For some reason I’m not nervous about this game. I fully expect Rodgers and the team to come out and play hard and win by a good margin. I’m betting on the first half -7.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 07:09 pm

I think they win. It might not be a shellacking, but I think they win.

I suspect we'll still have serious questions afterward because beating a team you should beat at home does little to wipe that nasty taste from the Saints game from your mouth.

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Lphill's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:06 pm

The Lions depend on passes to the Tight end and running backs , can the Packers cover ? If the Packers win it will be by less than 7 points , don’t know why the spread is 11.5

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murf7777's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:32 pm

The reasons are because the Lions suck, they normally struggle at Lambeau, have far less talent and have a new coach. In addition, they have Goff, who is prone to throwing INT’s even when he was on a very good team. The public know this so Vegas puts the spread at 12 to get some action onto the Lions.

Yes, in week one, the Lions showed dependence on throwing short passes, if the Packers are successful in taking that and the running game away, this game will be a blowout. Packers will get them down early and force Lions into risky throws leading to turnovers is my prediction. I’m thinking 31-17 Packers.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 03:52 pm

The Lions' offense was mostly nonexistent until SF kicked the PAT to go up 38-10 midway through the 3rd and didn't come back onto the field. They scored points after that against second stringers playing mostly prevent defense...unfortunately, that's mostly what the Packers D looked like last week v. the Saints.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 03:48 pm

Most Packers-Lions games over the years look sloppy and ugly, and usually aren't decided until later. Winning by less than 11.5 wouldn't surprise me at all.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 20, 2021 at 06:57 pm

I remember the Loins beating us 40-0 in the season opener around 1970 or so, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to live long enough to see the payback.

Still, that 20+ year streak of beating them in Green Bay was enjoyable.

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porupack's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:50 pm

today is first time in 20 years that finds me in wisconsin during a home game. What is the top place in Madison to get rowdy and watch the epic beatdown of the lions? I lived out of the usa for 20 years, and would relish the fav of Madison. thanks!

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porupack's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:51 pm

double posted

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murf7777's picture

September 20, 2021 at 12:39 pm

I’ve always enjoyed my big screen with friends at home, but what I’ve been told is Echo Tap and Grill is a great bar for sporting events. Located in downtown Madison.

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porupack's picture

September 20, 2021 at 05:58 pm

thx!

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porupack's picture

September 20, 2021 at 05:58 pm

thx!

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porupack's picture

September 20, 2021 at 05:59 pm

thx!

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jhtobias's picture

September 20, 2021 at 01:01 pm

Im thinking gutey has gotten a three year free ride when it comes to the defensive line.. except for clark none of these other guys would be on an nfl roster.

Definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecring better results 😒

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 07:14 pm

"except for clark none of these other guys would be on an nfl roster."

overstatement (noun): the action of expressing or stating something too strongly; exaggeration.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

September 20, 2021 at 01:21 pm

I expected the Packers to be sky high for the opener against the Saints with an advantage for the Packers by playing the game on a neutral field, yet we lost badly.

I watched the Saints play yesterday on TV and they were awful. I expected them to shut down the Panthers offense and not only did the Carolina offense run and pass all over them, the Saints offense looked inept against them. And Jameis Winston looked like the Jameis Winston that the league was used to seeing in Tampa Bay for years.

What this means to me is the old saying "On any Sunday..."

Thus what I am expecting to see tonight is a Packers team which looks more like what we have seen the past two years with a strong offense and a somewhat improved defense which will win this this game by 10+ points.

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splitpea1's picture

September 20, 2021 at 02:10 pm

You're calling this one uncomfortably close. Could be, depending on how our defense performs. Maybe we key in on Hockenson as the player that we don't let beat us. I'll take my chances with Swift (questionable with groin injury) and Williams.

On offense, I like a healthy dose of Jones on the ground and in the air. Mix in Dillon to keep the chains moving. And if the OL holds up well, try stretching the field with MVS; it'll make AR feel better if he connects on a couple of bombs.

Onwuzurike didn't play in the previous game, so he's another mystery.

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dobber's picture

September 20, 2021 at 03:58 pm

The Packers should be running a lot of 12 personnel, hitting the edges with Jones and Dillon, and making Detroit's back 7--especially their green DBs-- tackle. That should open the intermediate and deep stuff, keep their DBs off-balance, and force their DL to read rather than attack.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 20, 2021 at 05:34 pm

I watched a lot of games these last couple of weeks. I don’t see the Packers as one of the great teams. Above average right now but it’s still way too early to guess about the rest of the season for the Packers. I see this as a tight game with the Packers losing a close one. But just in case, I am defrosting a frozen crow tonight.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 20, 2021 at 07:06 pm

Patrick. There are no great teams in September. Their mettle hasn’t even been tested. The mark of a champion is what they do AFTER they’ve been knocked down, and IMO, that’s the beauty of the NFL season. It’s a grind that really tests the willingness to fight through adversity.

I like this team. We can /should score 30+ against these guys, and if we do, we’ll win.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 20, 2021 at 06:52 pm

My prediction? I predict that if the Packers lose their home opener to the Frickin Lions , then Hell will come apart at the seams.

No way.

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