OPPOSING VIEW: What can the Lions expect from Packers QB Matt Fynn?

Posted Nov 27, 2013

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packers beat writer Tyler Dunne takes a look at Thursday's Lions, Packers game

This week’s Opposing View comes from Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Dunne has covered the Packers for the Sentinel since 2011. He’s also made stops at the Buffalo News, Fayetteville Observer and Philadelphia Daily News. You can follow him on Twitter @TyDunne

Is quarterback Aaron Rodgers going to play on Thanksgiving? If not, Does Matt Flynn run the same Green Bay offense Rodgers would run?

Dunne: Right now, Mike McCarthy is saying the chances of Aaron Rodgers playing Thursday are "slim to none," despite the fact that Rodgers wants to play this week. I tend to think McCarthy is being honest here. So many fans around here want to see Rodgers back on the field, and maybe the broken collarbone has healed to an extent. But let’s remember that Thursday would be 3 ½ weeks since the guy suffered the break.

That’s not a very long time. And this is also a player the team made their No. 1 investment in the off-season. If he returned too soon, took a bad hit and further injured the collarbone, he’d be looking at a multi-month rehab. The Packers will likely look for a quarterback not named Rodgers to win them a game — a challenge all month.

Matt Flynn said this week that he was recalling plays and concepts from the last time he was in Green Bay, in 2011. He only ran eight offensive plays in practice the two weeks leading up to the Minnesota game. Flynn is definitely at his best running the no-huddle. He’s a gamer and can make plays on the move. But he also doesn’t have a very strong arm. There’s still a chance the Packers go with Scott Tolzien because he has a much stronger arm than Flynn. The Lions are susceptible deep, and Tolzien proved at New York he can throw the long ball.

The guess here is that the Packers stick with Flynn. If McCarthy started Tolzien and Tolzien struggled again, the masses would flood to Lambeau Field with pitchforks.

How have the Packers been playing upfront on offense?

Dunne: Up and down. For much of this season, the front five has been manhandling opponents in the run game. Josh Sitton’s move to left guard paid off big time and Evan Dietrich-Smith has been a substantial upgrade over Jeff Saturday. It’s not even close. But since Aaron Rodgers went down—and teams have loaded up eight men in the box—running the ball has been more difficult. There hasn’t been as much room for Eddie Lacy to run.

The Packers have to be encouraged with what Lacy did against Minnesota. He carried extra defenders with him three, four yards at a time.

One question is right tackle. Don Barclay has been out with a knee injury and Marshall Newhouse has really struggled. He’s been good for at least one lookout block a game. You have to admire Newhouse’s confidence. No player draws more ire from the fan base than him. But if Derek Sherrod is ready to play — the former first-rounder who’s been out since December 2011 with broken bones in his leg — Green Bay should really give him a shot.

What has Eddie Lacy done to change how the Packers attack teams on offense?

Dunne: The Packers haven’t had a workhorse back like Eddie Lacy, really since Ahman Green. He’s not going to break free for 30-, 40-, 50-yard runs. What you see is what you get. But a player who came into the NFL with major injury red flags has been one of the most durable players on the team. Lacy has carried the ball 20-plus times seven games this season—that doesn’t happen in Green Bay. Even Ryan Grant didn’t carry the ball that much.

Though it won’t be a problem indoors this week, Lacy’s asthma might be a concern down the stretch. He has never—not in high school, not in college—run in the cold. Lacy never even saw snow in person before coming to Green Bay. And in the 19-degree weather Sunday, he had to leave the field with his asthma. Three of the Packers’ five games are in the cold. This is something the team must monitor.

It’d probably be a good idea to get James Starks involved more. When given the chance, he hasn’t disappointed. Starks is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on the season.

Who is one player Lions fan might not know but could have an impact Thursday?

Dunne: Let’s go with Jarrett Boykin. He has really stepped up in his second season. Boykin went undrafted in 2012—and couldn’t even survive the Jacksonville Jaguars’ rookie camp. Teams were wary of his lack of speed. Boykin isn’t a burner and had one of the slowest times ever for a wide receiver at the NFL Combine. But it’s obvious that he’s fast enough to play in the NFL now.

Boykin can beat corners in 1 on 1 coverage and has massive 10 ¼-inch hands. With Randall Cobb down, he has become a regular part of the offense and allowed Jordy Nelson to move into the slot more. Wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett saw something in Boykin early. In many ways, he’s similar to one of Bennett’s former teammates—Antonio Freeman. Boykin actually broke Freeman’s records at Virginia Tech.

You have to think the Lions will be paying extra attention to Lacy, Nelson and James Jones, which could lead to big-play opportunities for Boykin. Off play-action, he had a 53-yarder at New York. He’s sneaky fast.

Green Bay will win if …

Dunne: The defense wakes up. It took three quarters of getting gashed by Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, but the Packers stepped up in the fourth quarter to give Matt Flynn a chance. They can’t afford another lethargic performance against Detroit. This is a completely different Lions offense than the one they faced in early October. Sam Shields’ health will be key. Green Bay needs him on Calvin Johnson. And the run defense — a strength early in the season — needs a turnaround. The Packers have allowed 171 yards per game on the ground. I’m picking the Lions in this one, simply because they have too many weapons for Green Bay to keep tabs on.