Mike McCarthy has no doubt informed his players as to what they should expect in Detroit on Sunday: desperation.
This is it for the Lions’ playoff hopes. Sunday’s game is the first of three consecutive home games for a Lions team that is 4-5 and needing to get on a roll to have any chance of winning a wild-card spot for the second consecutive season.
Unfortunately for the visitors, their injury list continues to grow. Bryan Bulaga is the latest to join the injured reserve list, and Clay Matthews has joined Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson as those already listed as “out” for Sunday’s game.
What it means is this: Those players’ replacements will likely have to play above expectations, and they must do so without injury because this team has reached the point of saturation.
This is late-season football and it is punctuated by desperation and injury. It’s a leaguewide thing and the teams that deal with their desperation and their injuries most effectively will be the teams whose seasons will last the longest.
The Lions have taken their hits in the secondary. It often happens that injuries are concentrated at one position. It’s not a good place to have injuries when you’re about to face Aaron Rodgers. The Lions will have to find a way to cope.
Bulaga’s hip injury gives Packers fans pause for concern up front, which is not a good place to have concern when you’re about to face Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh, who no doubt would love to stomp the Packers for real in this one. The Packers will have to find a way to cope.
So, if you like late-season football and all of its pressure and drama, then this is going to be your kind of game. For the Lions, the playoffs begin now. For the Packers, their division title hopes might be on the line in the next two games.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.
1. Protect Rodgers—It begins with that on offense. Don’t be fooled by the Lions’ rather unimpressive sacks stats. They have some scary pass rushers.
2. Mix run with pass—That’s part of the formula for protecting Rodgers.
3. Have a good plan—Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will have to find a way to deal with Matthews’ absence. Scheme will be more important this week.
4. Give him catches, not touchdowns—That appears to be a successful theme for defensing Calvin Johnson this season. Keep him out of the end zone, and you keep the Lions out of the end zone.
5. Maintain discipline—The worst thing you can do to a team is beat them.
6. Make the kicks—That’s enough with the misses. Late-season football is about making kicks at crunch time.
7. Get the ball to Cobb—He’s the “New Man” in the receiving corps. He’s the player opponents fear.
8. Win at quarterback—Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Stafford. The team whose quarterback has the higher passer rating will likely win the game.
9. Press their advantage in the kicking game—The Packers have been significantly more productive in the special teams phase. You might even say special teams have carried the Packers over some rough road this season. You might even say this game is more rough road.
10. Outcoach them—You might even say the Packers need to win all four phases of the game. Additional coverage - Nov. 15