Packers at Lions for NFC North Title
-Can Packers leaky pass defense hold up?
-Will the crowd noise advantage cause the Packers OT's problems on the edges pass protecting for Rodgers, as in Minnesota?
Packers Insider & Packers Magazine senior editor Brian Murphy fielded some questions this week from fans via Twitter & e-mail
How can the Packers win if their defensive backs continue to make mediocre receivers like Thielen, Marvin Jones, Stefon Diggs look like Hall of Famers?
-Kevin, Kansas City, MO
That's a great point. The loss of Sam Shields has had very severe consequences for the Packers defense. It's forced the number two and three corners Randall and Rollins, to move up a notch and cover the opponents top two wide receivers. Both of those guys are young, only in their second seasons. Both have been battling injuries most of the season as well, with Randall actually having surgery on his groin. He's not at full strength, has been torched repeatedly since week two in Minnesota.
He's listed as questionable.
The depth is depleted, and Randall is listed as questionable for this week. I expect there to be some big plays for Stafford, with Jones again, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, and speedy tight end Eric Ebron all capable of gashing the Packers when their DB's fall down and blow coverages. The best way for the Packers to prevent this, of course, is with the pass rush. This would be a great week for Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, and Datone Jones to rack up some sacks, pressures, and QB hits.
The Packers pass protection has been good this year for the most part, but I remember big problems in the dome in Minnesota. Will Bakhtiari and Bulaga be able to protect Rodgers on the edges?
-Chris, Dover, Delaware
The strength of the Packers offensive line is certainly pass blocking. Pro Football Focus grades LT Bakhtiari #1 of all tackles in terms of pass protection. Bulaga is graded top-20 as well. But the crowd noise in Ford Field will give an advantage to he DE's and OLBs for the Lions as the Packers tackles will be a split-second late. This can make a significant difference, as you mentioned in Minnesota. But also in Arizona last year week 16.
Coach McCarthy is well aware of this obviously, so look for some quick passes, screens to WR's that lead to no gains but big hits. I'm not a fan of our WR screens, but I do like the screens to the running backs. Ty Montgomery should be lethal with these, if the timing and the OL can get it right.
The Packers need to get off to a good start if they want to quiet the crowd. If things don't go well early, that crowd will roar all game long with the roof keeping the noise being a factor.
Do you trust Davante Adams if the game is on the line?
-Kelly, Murphys Ridge, Idaho
I'll be honest with you. I do not. I trust that he can get open, but I don't want his hands deciding the game and season at the end.
You all remember his dropped touchdown pass last week versus the Vikings, and you remember the two dropped touchdown passes the week before in Chicago. But his big drops go back to his rookie year of 2014 when he dropped two touchdown passes in the game against New England. He also dropped one in the back corner of the end zone in Arizona in 2015.
Rob, Queen Creek, AZ
Detroit is 6-1 at home this year, and the Packers are 3-4 away from Lambeau with those 3 wins coming against crappy teams Jacksonville, Chicago, and Philadelphia. All are blow .500 teams, and the Jags and Bears are bottom 5 teams. Why does everyone think the Packers will win there? We got lucky to win there last year with Rodgers, and we lost the two times before last year too in Detroit.
The Lions have been struggling, while the Packers have been red hot. But I agree with you, this game could go either way. The Lions have a great home field advantage, and the Packers haven't beaten a team on the road with a winning record since the miracle in Motown last year. That was their only win over a winning team on the road last year.
So the bad news is the Packers rarely win a road game against a good team. The good news is Detroit is the place it seems to happen. One more time?
Why hasn't Ted Thompson added some veteran cornerbacks instead of relying on and dying with these undrafted, inexperienced young guys?
Cornerback was thought to be a position of strength entering this year, with Randall, Rollins, and Gunter looking like emerging stars potentially.
What nobody realized is that Sam Shields only had one bump on his head left before his career would probably end. His head, sadly, can't take any even semi-hard hits.
And Randall and Rollins have regressed, been burnt, and now Randall feels like he has to give 10 yards cushion, then he misses tackles.
Who knew that the biggest off-season mistake turned out to be letting Casey Hayward go? He's turned into a Pro Bowl cornerback, leading the NFL in interceptions, while the Packers young guys took big steps backwards. Still, there's time to change it around, but the Packers pass rush will have to step up to camouflage the weakness on the back end.
The Packers run game has been up and down recently. In Chicago week 14, Montgomery was the player of the week with over 150 yards. Last week versus Minnesota, there was no running game at all. What do you expect Sunday night?
I wish I knew. I believe McCarthy's intentions are for it to be good, and effective early. With the crowd roaring early, the perfect way to silence them would be to hit them with some gashes via the legs of Montgomery and Michael. That would do a few things. In addition to positive gains and maybe points, it would slow down the pass rush as they can't just focus 100% on getting to Rodgers. It also will take a little steam out of that crowd.
Combine those things, it will help to open up the passing game. All that could allow Rodgers and company to put up a big number Sunday Night.
And they might have to with this pass defense, especially if Damarious Randall (listed as questionable) is unable to go.
Cameron, Little Elm, Texas
Who are the keys to the game for the Packers?
It could be anyone. Guys like Josh Hawkins and Makinton Dorleant could prove critical, and what does America know about them? Nothing. They weren't drafted. And, unlike Sam Shields in 2010 who was also undrafted, they weren't big contributors throughout their rookie seasons. They didn't make big interceptions. And they don't possess elite speed, recovery speed, that Shields did right away.
Jared Cook could be a key. He's capable of making big plays.
But I worry about tackling. Boldin is hard to tackle, and the Packers corners are soft. Tight End Eric Ebron was drafted before Odell Beckham in 2014, because he's very talented with elite speed for a tight end. He's been showing that recently at times. The Packers coverage on tight ends has always been w concern.
Can Joe Thomas do the job? He's listed as questionable. That doesn't sound ideal. Jake Ryan can't cover him. Blake Martinez is still not right after his knee injury. Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett will probably be assigned him the most. Ebron can run past both guys.
There will be many chapters written Sunday night, but the stars and supporting casts who rise up, or fall down, remain to be seen.