Series: Green Bay leads 95-67-7 in a series that dates to 1930. The first six meetings were against the Portsmouth Spartans. The teams have split the series the past two seasons. Green Bay, of course, won at home last year because it always wins at home. The Packers haven’t lost to the Lions at home since 1991, when Lindy Infante was the coach and Brett Favre was in Atlanta.
Last time (at Lambeau Field): With Aaron Rodgers laboring on – and reinjuring – his sprained calf, the Packers won 30-20 on Dec. 28 to earn the NFC North championship and a first-round bye. Eddie Lacy ran for 100 yards against one of the top run defenses in NFL history and Rodgers accounted for three touchdowns while throwing only five incomplete passes.
Noteworthy: The Lions’ calling card has been their indomitable defensive line, which was on full display in their 19-7 victory over the Packers at Ford Field in Week 3 of last season. Free agency tore that calling card into a million pieces. The Lions couldn’t afford to keep defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and they grew tired of waiting for Nick Fairley to develop into a star, so they let him sign with the Rams. Even top backup C.J. Mosley departed, as he joined Suh in Miami. Detroit sent a couple of mid-round picks to Baltimore for Haloti Ngata but a relative unknown by the name of Tyrunn Walker will take the other spot.Without Suh and Fairley dominating on first down and getting in quarterbacks’ faces on third down, it will be interesting to see if cornerbacks Rashean Mathis, Darius Slay and whoever winds up at the nickel will be able to hold up in coverage. The ageless Mathis has been excellent and Slay looks like a rising young player but will they be the same without Suh and Fairley providing a constant rush? Will they be as effective when it’s third-and-3 more often than it’s third-and-8? Losing the tackles was a huge blow but middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is back after tearing an Achilles while celebrating a sack in the Week 3 win over Green Bay.
Offensive rankings: 22nd in points (20.1 per game). 19th in yards (340.8 per game). 12th in passing (251.9 per game). 28th in rushing (88.9 per game).
Defensive rankings: 3rd in points (17.6 per game). 2nd in yards (300.9 per game). 13th in passing (231.6 per game). 1st in rushing (69.3 per game).
2015 Comings and Goings
Draft: The Lions’ powerful defensive line was gutted in free agency. Nonetheless, they didn’t make it a priority to rebuild the depth chart in the first round. They moved back a handful of picks in the first round to take Duke’s Laken Tomlinson. He’ll step in right away at left guard. Detroit got excellent value with its next three picks. Second-rounder Ameer Abdullah is a younger version of do-it-all running back Reggie Bush, who they sent packing, and fourth-rounder Gabe Wright will help plug the massive holes left on the defensive line. In between, third-rounder Alex Carter provides a physical corner. Fifth-round fullback Michael Burton can block and catch.
2015 Personnel in Focus
Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six dark green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.
The Lions have ...
Blue/elite (1): WR Calvin Johnson.
Dark green/high quality (6): WR Golden Tate, RG Larry Warford, DE Ziggy Ansah, MLB Stephen Tulloch, CB Rashean Mathis, S Glover Quin.
Yellow/average (4): WR Lance Moore, RT LaAdrian Waddle, DT Tyrunn Walker, OLB Tahir Whitehead.
Red/Poor (0): None.
Silver/Not enough information (0): None.
Purple/Rookie (2): G Laken Tomlinson, FB Michael Burton.
DT Halota Ngata said: "It's exciting, man. I’ve never been a part of a defense like this. You have so many athletes: J.J. (Jason Jones), Ziggy, Caraun (Reid), Darryl Tapp. You just have so many playmakers all over the front on the D-line. I'm just excited to be a part of it. … I've been down in Baltimore a long time and changing to this type of defense, it's just exciting. I'm excited to do it and I'm excited to be here. Just can't wait to put the pads on to see how it really feels."
Coach Jim Caldwell, on expectations entering his second season for QB Matthew Stafford: “It puts him in position where he can anticipate what he’s going to see according to formations, actions, things of that nature. I think once you get accustomed to being able to have an idea of what you might get, I think it helps you in terms of your proficiency. He can anticipate a little bit more, he can get isolations where, obviously, sometimes by using his eyes the proper way. So, there are a lot of little nuances I think that he’s really starting to develop.”Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.