Monday Night Football Week 2 Preview and Prediction: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers Preview
The Packers’ Week 1 blowout loss was as stunning a defeat as anyone could have imagined. Green Bay entered the year as one of the NFC favorites for the Super Bowl with Last Dance-esque fan fiction coursing through everyone’s minds. The defense’s struggles against a Sean Payton engineered offense did not come as a huge surprise, but Aaron Rodgers and the offense’s collapse leaves head coach Matt LaFleur needing to whip both sides of the ball into shape.
At least for the offense, this is a good opportunity for a “get right” game. In particular, Rodgers needs to regain confidence throwing to the intermediate part of the field. The reigning MVP almost entirely avoided the middle of the field in the 10-20 yard range against the Saints defense. His aggression against New Orleans was only reserved for a small handful of heaves deep down the field, including the one interception to Marcus Williams that was at least five yards from any Packers player. The good news is, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo torched the Lions defense last week in the intermediate middle part of the field.
This is where an offense like LaFleur’s, which shares some of the Kyle Shanahan roots, wants to be able to get their play-action passes and hi-lo drop back concepts going. The play-action stuff was tough to get into versus the Saints thanks to an early 17-point deficit, while the drop back inefficiency largely came down to Rodgers skimping out on tougher passes in favor of check downs.
While I think Detroit could put up points in this game, it’s unlikely they will rattle off a 17-point start the way New Orleans did. That should allow the Packers to stick to their game script more comfortably. Hopefully that will be enough to jumpstart Rodgers’ willingness to chuck it over the middle again.
Detroit Lions Preview
There is some merit to the Lions being a scrappy team. Fighting back from a 31-10 deficit at halftime to make the game close at the end takes a degree of resiliency, even if the 49ers seemed to take their foot off the pedal a bit as the game went on. Dan Campbell’s Lions are going to need a little more than resilience to make this game interesting, but the offense may have shown just enough signs of life to expect a decent performance versus a putrid Packers defense.
To quickly set the stage for this Packers defense: Green Bay finished 29th in defensive DVOA after Week 1, sitting dead-last against the pass and a middling 21st against the run. The Packers did okay to defend the run in part because of their linebackers and safeties rallying well, but they finished 28th in Adjusted Line Yards allowed, per Football Outsiders. It’s more likely that the defensive front continues to get gashed than it is that the players in the back end can continue cleaning up their mess. The Packers built a stars-and-scrubs defense, and their scrubs looked like scrubs while their stars did not shine nearly as bright as they needed to.
Detroit’s offense is not New Orleans’ offense, but running the ball well should be doable. The Lions finished a modest 18th in Adjusted Line Yards against a good 49ers defensive front. Blend that with Jamaal Williams’ high-floor, grind-it-out style and DeAndre Swift’s explosive potential and it is not hard to see how the Lions have all the tools to patch together a stable run game to take pressure off of Jared Goff.
The former Rams quarterback still has to perform, of course, and will need to avoid the same boneheaded interceptions he threw last week, but that should be feasible. As mentioned, the Packers defense did not play well at all last week, in part because they may still be adjusting to a defensive system that relies a bit more on softer zone coverages. Goff at least did a decent job throwing underneath and taking checkdowns last week and the Lions are hoping he can build on that against a shakier defense this week.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions Prediction
This game has the potential ingredients for a sloppy game that nets points for both sides. Rodgers is being given a great opportunity to bounce back versus a pass defense that just got gutted over the middle, while the Lions may be able to chip away at the Packers defense through both the air and the ground to keep pace.
Green Bay will ultimately win out in the end, but I’m not so sure I love them to cover. 11 points is a lot for a team that got blasted by 35 in the opening week, even if we know the Packers are a better team than they showed last Sunday. Division games are usually the scrappiest, too, and this Lions team sure looks ready to scrap.