GREEN BAY—It’s only Week 3, but this is big.
The Packers will have an opportunity to score a win this Sunday that would be the equivalent of breaking serve in tennis. With a win in Detroit, the Packers would more than move into or maintain a share of the NFC North lead; they would claim an immediate tiebreaker advantage over the Lions.
Coaches have long said you have to win your division games. Well, this is the first of three in a row, the first of consecutive division games on the road and the first two of those are against what most consider to be the challengers to the Packers’ three-year grip on the division.
Plain and simple? Win in Detroit and the Packers are on their way to another title season. Lose in Detroit and the following week’s game in Chicago becomes even bigger.
The last time the Packers played in Ford Field they came away red-faced, 40-10. The Lions looked like they were headed for the division title, but it would be the only game they would win in their final seven games of the season, and four consecutive losses to finish the season cost Jim Schwartz his job.
Jim Caldwell is Schwartz’ replacement, and it’s likely no coincidence Caldwell is the polar opposite of Schwartz. Caldwell is offense. Caldwell is measured calm. Caldwell is discipline. Caldwell is hope the Lions will realize their potential, which no less authority than Mike McCarthy recognized in the winter of 2011, a few weeks after winning Super Bowl XLV, when McCarthy pronounced the Lions to be a team on the verge.
Are they still a team on the verge? Are the Packers still the dominant team in the NFC North? Sunday’s result will address those questions.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Lions.
1. Deny big plays – The Lions feast on big plays. They aren’t the same team when they aren’t making big plays. Make them make little plays. Make them drive the ball.
2. Stop the run – Even for a team that wants to throw it, not being able to run the ball can be a problem, as evidenced by the Lions’ loss in Carolina last weekend.
3. Run it – Eddie Lacy is one of the Packers’ stars. He’s too valuable to this team not to get his touches.
4. Beware DeAndre Levy – He’s a rising star and the Lions’ playmaker on defense.
5. Block Suh – Corey Linsley will be getting his first look at a man whose reputation precedes him. A little help early wouldn’t be a bad idea.
6. Make him jump high – What else can you do to stop Calvin Johnson?
7. Expect double coverage – Caldwell all but said it in his conference call on Wednesday. Jordy Nelson is almost certainly going to get double coverage on Sunday following his Megatron-like performance against the Jets.
8. Turn to Cobb – They can’t double-cover everybody.
9. Win passer rating – The Packers didn’t in Seattle and did against the Jets.
10. Feel the love – Ford Field will be full of Packers fans.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 18