Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We tell you the four matchups that will decide the winner of Sunday's game at Ford Field between the surging Packers and downtrodden Lions. Leading off, how will the Lions stop Greg Jennings, and can Bryan Bulaga keep Cliff Avril off of Aaron Rodgers?


WR Greg Jennings vs. cornerbacks: Jennings' homecoming trip to his native Michigan couldn't come at a better time. He is the most productive receiver going in the league with 43 receptions for 761 yards and eight touchdowns in the last seven games. Jennings rolls into Ford Field riding a three-game streak of 100-yard performances with five TDs. He had just two catches for 25 yards with a touchdown in the teams' early-season meeting at Green Bay, with cornerback Alphonso Smith ripping a long pass away from Jennings for an interception. The Lions are short-handed and bad in the secondary, especially after putting Smith, their interceptions leader, on injured reserve this week, so another huge game from Jennings in front of family and friends from his boyhood and college stomping grounds of Kalamazoo is a good possibility. In four previous trips to Detroit, Jennings had two 100-yard games and three touchdowns.

RT Bryan Bulaga vs. DE Cliff Avril: While all eyes will be on the Lions' stud rookie defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, Avril is the guy to watch on the Lions' defensive line in this game. Avril had three sacks against Chicago last week, running his season total to a career-high seven. He'll face first-round pick Bulaga, who has allowed seven sacks in an up-and-down rookie campaign. If the Packers can keep Avril and Suh under control, Aaron Rodgers should have a monster game against a secondary featuring a new starting cornerback (Brandon McDonald for Smith) and a rookie safety (Amari Spievey).


Inside linebackers and safeties vs. TE Brandon Pettigrew: Calvin Johnson tormented Green Bay with two touchdown catches in Detroit's near-upset at Lambeau Field in Week 4, but Pettigrew had a bigger role in the Lions' passing attack that day. He had a career-high eight receptions for 91 yards against a Packers defense that was without cover LB Brandon Chillar. Green Bay again won't have Chillar, who is on injured reserve, and the Packers are ripe to be exploited by the emerging, athletic and powerful Pettigrew over the middle after they were overmatched against the 49ers' Vernon Davis last time out. Pettigrew ranks third among all tight ends with 60 receptions.

CBs Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams vs. WR Calvin Johnson: Johnson has destroyed the Packers over the years. Johnson, who has matched his career high with 12 touchdown receptions this season despite the Lions having started three quarterbacks, scored twice against the Packers in October, once in his only matchup against Green Bay in 2009 and twice in both games in 2008. Of course, Woodson has destroyed the Lions over the years, too. In Week 4, his pick-six in the second half proved to be the decisive score, and he's returned an interception for a touchdown in each of the last three seasons against Detroit. No matter Woodson's track record and Williams' breakout season, it's almost impossible to match up against a 6-foot-5 receiver.


… Rodgers has time to work his magic. Three of his six top single-game performances in terms of yards have come against Detroit, his career passer rating against the Lions is 121.0 with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, and his career passer rating in the great indoors is 109.0. The Lions linebackers and defensive backs have no prayer against the Packers' talented pass-catchers.


… They can't handle kick returner Stefan Logan, who has been the NFL's best this season with top-shelf averages on kickoff returns (28.8, 105-yard touchdown) and punt returns (12.4). He'll test the Packers' coverage units, which haven't been trustworthy this season.


… Their offensive line can protect quarterback Drew Stanton. The Packers will be without second-leading sacker Cullen Jenkins and Clay Matthews has been limited with an injured shin. The Lions have a talented group of pass-catchers, with Johnson and Nate Burleson at receiver and Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler at tight end.


… They let the Packers have some success on the ground. Detroit's best bet is to make the Packers' offense one-dimensional and get after Rodgers with their defensive line. But if Brandon Jackson or James Starks can find some running room, then this is the type of game in which the Packers could score 40 points with ease.


Just like the San Francisco game, there are some matchups that are truly worrisome. I didn't think the Packers could stop Vernon Davis, and they couldn't. But Green Bay's offense is humming and the Lions' back seven won't have nearly enough answers against Rodgers and Co. Packers 34, Lions 17

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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