Spread:Green Bay (1-1) by 8 over Detroit (0-2)
Where: Ford Field - Field Turf (Detroit, Michigan)
Head Coach: Mike Sherman (2nd Season)
Division: NFC North
Rosters: Lions | Packers
Links: In-Depth Pre-Game Stats | Message Board | Pre-Game Chat | Packers Insiders
While many critics have called the season a wash, Detroit's home opener against the Green Bay Packers (1-1) will ultimately decide the fate of the regular season. Optimism was rejuvenated earlier this week when rookie quarterback Joey Harrington was named the team's starter, but the defense remains one of the bigger question marks entering week three.
Packers' quarterback Brett Favre and running back Ahman Green will test a Lions' defense that has given up an average of 258 passing yards per game, 128.5 rushing yards per game, and a defensive front four that has failed to get to the opposing quarterback -- registering zero sacks in both losses.
Divisional contests are always substantial, and Detroit (0-2) has the ability to reciprocate Green Bay's record with a win.
5 Keys to Beating the Packers:
Get the crowd into the game
The Silverdome was extremely unpopular with visitors, especially divisional foes. With a sell out crowd of 65,000-plus, Lions' fans in attendance at the new Ford Field could make things difficult for Green Bay -- but only if Detroit gives them a reason to. Harrington's presence will help, but the offense has to move the chains consistently, and the defense has to force Green Bay into difficult third down situations. The Packers have completed almost 40 percent of third down attempts this season
Last season, in a 27-29 loss to Green Bay at home (best remembered as Mike McMahon's rookie rally), the Lions were hurt by two turnovers and 11 penalties. Besides failing to convert third downs, those two factors eliminate any offensive momentum and thus fan support. The Lions are 0-2 with 11 men on the field, a 12th certainly won't hurt.
Set up the pass with the run
Although only a rookie, Joey Harrington has the ability to rack up the passing yards. He displayed his composure and accuracy in the pre-season, tossing for over 200 yards in two consecutive games in just a half of play, and the former Oregon standout will face a questionable and banged up Green Bay secondary.
The Packers' defensive backs have allowed an average of 202.5 passing yards per game against two quarterbacks (Michael Vick/Aaron Brooks) that aren't recognized for their passing brilliance. However, Harrington doesn't have the mobility as those two QB's, so he will require a balanced offensive attack to keep the defense honest.
The offensive line has to open up holes for running back James Stewart, and he has to make the most of them. Stewart rushed just 12 times for 53 yards against Carolina, but needs to see more action on Sunday.
As mentioned previously, the Lions have totaled no sacks thus far into the regular season, a significant reason as to why the ball club is winless. If they hope to garner their first victory, pressure has to be applied to future hall of fame quarterback Brett Favre.
Favre has looked in Pro Bowl fashion the past two contests, completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 554 yards, with just one interception. But he's also been sacked just three times. In each game, Favre has received great protection from his offensive line, giving him time to find his targets. When Favre is pressured, as we witnessed in last year's Green Bay-St. Louis playoff contest (where Favre made his best Ty Detmer impersonation), he will make the errant throw.
Detroit's front four has accomplished nothing this year, and will be without second-year standout Shaun Rogers. Rogers will be replaced in the lineup by veteran Kelvin Pritchett. The group was hailed as the strongest facet of the Lions entering the season, but has seemed at times to be the weakest. If they don't get penetration, it could get ugly quickly.
Defensive secondary must step up
In the past two losses, the Lions' secondary has made opposing quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and Rodney Peete look like Dan Marino and Steve Beurlein. If the trend continues on Sunday, who knows how good they can make Favre look.
While they haven't received much help from a stagnant defensive line, veteran corners Eric Davis and Todd Lyght have looked silly on some plays, and downright atrocious on most others. Regardless, everyone in the defensive backfield -- safeties Brian Walker and Corey Harris included -- need to step up. They need to hit hard, play a smart zone, and keep the middle of the field closed. When Favre scrambles, he likes to throw to targets on the run. If he does, the defensive backs can't bite, otherwise they'll get burned.
Packers' wide receivers Terry Glenn, Donald Driver, Javon Walker, tight end Bubba Franks and Ahman Green out of the backfield have solidified themselves as formidable targets -- and each is a threat. They aren't the most talented core of receivers Detroit will face this season, but Favre has a way of making receivers look better than what they really are -- just ask Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks. The Lions can't be caught sleeping as they have been, and also can't show their age, as they have been. If Rodney Peete throws like a world beater against you one week, Favre will embarrass you right out of your new stadium the next. This is where the game will be won or lost by the Lions.
Contain Ahman Green
Green is the closest thing to Marshall Faulk's on field equivalent. Green packages the ability to catch, run, and explode especially on a screen pattern -- and that is where he becomes dangerous.
Although Green is battling a nagging knee injury, it hasn't prevented him from leading the team in receptions (12 rec/95 yds) and rushing (44 car/236 yds). A player of Green's caliber is never stopped, yet simply contained, and Detroit can do that if the defensive line steps up and tackles, and the linebackers don't over-pursue and play together.
Miami was able to run the screen effectively against Detroit because of poor tackling and poor decision making on the field. These problems are easily corrected by playing smart football, and by playing collectively as a unit. If the Lions can gel, they may have a chance.