Opposing View: Tyler Dunne on the Lions-Packers matchup

Posted Dec 8, 2012

This week's Opposing View comes from Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Dunne is in his second year at the Journal Sentinel covering the Packers. You can follow him on Twitter at @TyDunne.

1. The Lions have struggled to win close games all season. How do the Packers continue to win close games in the fourth quarter through all the injuries?

This has definitely been a different season in that regard. Last year, the Packers raced to big leads and pulled away from teams. I think a lot of has to do with an improved defense. At Detroit, they forced a three-and-out when Matthew Stafford got the ball back in a two-minute situation. They're closing on the ball faster and limiting big plays.

The offense has the benefit of not needing to be perfect, flawless. By game's end, Aaron Rodgers has usually been able to figure out defenses. The Lions have an excellent game plan for him with the two-deep shell. But, game on the line, Rodgers orchestrated a game-winning drive. Through the course of the game, they've been able to figure out what works when it matters.

2. How concerned are the Packers about the health of their offensive line - especially considering how well the Lions are playing upfront on defense?
We'll see if T.J. Lang (ankle) can play. He's questionable. If he can't go, undrafted rookie Don Barclay makes his first career start at right tackle. Against Minnesota, he had a very promising debut. Barclay is gritty, smart and has some experience in a zone-blocking scheme from his time at West Virginia. The Packers gave him some help with a back or tight end at times.

But for the most part, Mike McCarthy didn't need to baby Barclay last week. Against the Detroit, the questions will probably be inside. Nick Fairley had a huge game at Detroit on left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. In talking to Jeff Saturday this week, he thinks the Packers' middle three has gotten better over these past three games together. I guess we'll find out at Lambeau Field.
3. What does having WR Greg Jennings back do for the Packers offense, and how will the Packers use both him and Randall Cobb?
With Jordy Nelson (hamstring) missing Sunday's game, you'll see Greg Jennings working more on the outside with Randall Cobb staying in the slot. The Packers aren't going to mess with success. Cobb has really found a comfort zone inside this season and – with defenses playing so much Cover 2 to negate Green Bay's perimeter threats – he has become the go-to guy.

He has averaged 8.4 targets the last seven games. Rodgers really trusts him. Jennings is getting there. He really hasn't been himself in a full calendar year. Healthy, without pain, he'll continue to play a lot. He was active last week in his first week back.

4. What are the realistic expectations for RB Ryan Grant?
He won't be a major factor Sunday in his first game back - the guy has a grand total of one carry this season - but the Packers are counting on him to provide a physical presence down the stretch. He's not around merely for moral support, although teammates did give Grant a standing ovation on Wednesday.

Ideally, the Packers probably want 8-10 carries a game from Grant eventually – something to take pressure off Alex Green. When Cedric Benson went down and Green assumed No. 1 duties, he averaged only 2.4 yards per carry over three games. But when Green had James Starks splitting carries with him, he averaged 4.3 yards per rush over three games.

Green Bay is hoping Grant can be that guy with DuJuan Harris possibly factoring in as well. Can Grant do it? He sure missed a ton of time. Sunday night's first game back will be a big test for him.
5. Calvin Johnson had 143 yards and touchdown in the first matchup Week 11. How do the Packers hope to contain him this time around?
The Packers would prefer cornerback Tramon Williams take on Johnson with safety help over the top when necessary. Williams and Johnson have seen a lot of each other these past few years. It's a match-up that Williams always looks forward, too.

Earlier this year, he embraced the whole "Optimus Prime" role. Overall, I think the Packers realize Johnson is going to make plays, like he did in Week 11. There's nobody like him in the game. Maybe more important is how the Packers fare on all of Detroit's other receivers. They're going to be one-on-one coverage most of the game.