The season might still be young, but if you ask the Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions, there is a world of difference between 1-2 and 0-3. Each team will look to avoid the latter on Sunday, as Detroit plays host to legendary Packers' quarterback Brett Favre for perhaps the last time.
Favre is among the hot topics as we take a look at what Detroit must do -- and avoid -- to clinch its first win of the season. Our five keys to the game are below.
Stop Brett Favre
Those three words have eluded the Detroit Lions since the Atlanta Falcons gifted Favre to Green Bay before the 1992 season. Simply put, Favre has been a Lion-killer. Although he is 6-8 when playing on Detroit's home field, the Packers' field general has had some of his better days and more memorable moments against the Lions.
To complicate matters, the Lions defense is allowing a nearly 80-percent completion rate against opposing quarterbacks. And if given the opportunity, Favre will pick apart Detroit's secondary.
"Believe me (I have) unbelievable respect for him (Brett Favre) now; he's an all-time warrior in this league," said Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli. "He will not let a play die and as a coach you're sweating bullets. He's still got a lot there and he's alive; you know what I'm saying? In the game he's alive, you can just see it, as a coach you admire that. He goes after it; he's done it for a long time and he's been successful."
It is up to Detroit's defensive line (in particular at defensive end) to relieve the Lions' questionable defensive backfield. If the Lions can administer a pass rush against an inexperienced Green Bay offensive line, Favre will wilt under the pressure as he has in the past.
The Big Baby Effect
The Lions defense lives and dies through the play of Shaun Rogers. 'Big Baby' usually reserves his best for Favre and the Packers, and Detroit will need his influence on Sunday. Facing an interior line of Green Bay that is both inexperienced and struggling, Rogers and his teammates must capitalize on the opportunities, because they will be there.
"We're not just going to play one-on-one with Shaun Rogers, I think that's a safe bet there," Packers' coach Mike McCarthy said during this week's conference call. "Shaun is an outstanding football player and we have acknowledged that and that will be part of our plan as we come into Sunday's game."
But whatever method Green Bay uses to control Rogers, an attacking Lions' defense must counter.
Between Marinelli, a former defensive line coach, and
aggressive coordinator Donnie Henderson, it should be an afterthought to expect
frequent blitz packages up the middle early in the game to offset Green Bay's
offense and take advantage of the attention paid to Rogers. Even further, if the
mammoth defensive tackle is able to be productive in spite of the double team,
it will be an incredibly long day for Favre and co.
Get Ford Field Loud
Brett Favre isn't often stymied by a rambunctious crowd, but that doesn't necessarily mean his two rookie guards won't be in the duo's first road game of the season.
The Lions' defense must establish themselves early, and work the crowd into the game without giving up the big play. They did an excellent job of limiting the prowess of Seattle's offense in Week One, and if they can duplicate that defensive effort, Ford Field will become the 12th man and a thorn in the side of Favre and Green Bay's offense.
Roy And His Receivers
Roy Williams stopped talking this week. Maybe he'll start playing.
Williams has less receptions (9) than running back Kevin Jones (11), and has yet to demonstrate the break-out/big play ability that was talked about throughout the off-season. Williams will face two formidable cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Al Harris on Sunday, but must provide a threat to an otherwise awful Green Bay secondary to help both quarterback Jon Kitna and his fellow wide outs.
Although Mike Furrey has been solid this season (11 catches, 122 yards) and was a decent No. 2 last week at Chicago, it us up to Williams to draw the focus and help open up Detroit's passing attack. Against a Packers' defense that allows 292 passing yards a game, he should have his chance.
Williams' role is identical to the one enjoyed by Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt during offensive coordinator Mike Martz's days in St. Louis, and the play of each helped pave the way for an opportunistic offense with several receiving threats.
"As long as the offense does what they're supposed to do in all areas, there's no team in this league that can beat us," said Williams earlier in the week. "Like I keep saying, our only defense is ourselves; we kill ourselves every week. Week in and week out, we kill ourselves."
Running Game Wanted
It wasn't too long ago when Kevin Jones was running roughshod over Green Bay en route to apparent superstardom. But since his 33-carry, 156-yard rookie performance at Lambeau in 2004, Jones' career has curtailed. He has had just one 100-yard game since (also occurring later in his rookie season), and his average in 2006 is even less than the paltry 3.6 YPC he finished with in 2005.
Still, Jones' 87 rushing yards against Green Bay last year was a season high. And with the return of left guard Ross Verba to Detroit's line-up, along with the recent Allen Park sentiment that the Lions' passing offense is incredibly close, there is hope on the horizon that Jones will shake his funk.
Interestingly, look for Detroit's passing offense to help open up the run against a strong Packers' defensive front seven.