5 things to watch: Lions at Packers

Detroit hits the road for the first time this season for a primetime appearance on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Both the Lions and Packers are coming off Week 1 losses and know 0-2 puts them in an uncomfortable hole to begin the season.

It's a big NFC North matchup tonight, and here are five things I'll be watching out for:

1. DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENTS

The Lions allowed the most points and yards in franchise history last season and knew they had to be markedly better on that side of the football this season if they were going to be a better overall football club.

Detroit's defense allowed 34 points in the opening loss to San Francisco, which ranks 28th in the NFL after Week 1, and the 49ers racked up 442 total yards of offense, which also places Detroit 28th in yards allowed per game.

It certainly doesn't help matters that Detroit lost top cornerback Jeff Okudah for the year to a ruptured Achilles and are expected to start two rookies in the secondary against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Detroit's got to be better against the run (131 rushing yds allowed last week), and they need to find ways to get Rodgers off his spot and hurry his clock.

2. ROOKIE IMPACT

There are two Lions draft picks who have yet to make their NFL regular-season debuts, but it appears that number will at least be cut in half tonight in Green Bay.

Second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike missed the opener due to a hip injury, and seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson was a healthy inactive. We'll have to see what the Lions decide to do at running back and if Jefferson is active or not, but Onwuzurike is expected to make his debut after practicing in full all week.

Onwuzurike missed a lot of training camp due to a back injury, but when he got back on the field late in camp and at the end of the preseason, his presence was certainly felt. He's long and strong with terrific foot quickness. He can play in space and be a disruptor, so it will be fun to see what kind of impact he can have in the defensive line rotation.

Rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu played in the opener when Jeff Okudah was injured in the fourth quarter. It's likely he'll get the start tonight opposite Amani Oruwariye, so there's another rookie looking to have a big immediate impact.

3. RODGERS REVENGE?

Green Bay dropped their opener 38-3 to New Orleans, and Rodgers did not play well in that contest.

In fact, Rodgers' 36.8 passer rating last week in the loss to New Orleans was the fourth lowest of his career since taking over as a full-time starter in 2008.

In the games immediately following Rodgers' previous five worst passer-rating performances, he has a 4-1 record with a combined 117.7 passer rating while competing 70 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just one interception.

The Packers have never started 0-2 on the year with Rodgers as their starter. Rodgers is also 8-0 on Monday Night Football as a starter with 24 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 118.1 passer rating.

It's the home opener for the Packers on national television, so it would be very surprising if Rodgers didn't play well for the second week in a row.

4. GETTING INTO THE ACTION

Detroit receivers had just two receptions heading into the fourth quarter last week, though they finished with 13 receptions as a unit as Detroit mounted a fourth-quarter comeback that came up just short.

Still, the Lions need that revamped receiver corps to be more involved earlier in the game today, or Green Bay's defense is going to key into what Detroit wants to do, which is get the ball into the hands of tight end T.J. Hockenson and running backs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Those three had eight receptions apiece against the 49ers.

Tyrell Williams, Detroit's most veteran receiver, did not return to practice this week after suffering a concussion Week 1. He has already been ruled out for tonight's contest. The Lions' offense doesn't have a lot of vertical threats, but they need to find a way to push the ball down the field more than they did against the 49ers.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

5. SEWELL ENCORE

First-round draft pick Penei Sewell had a terrific debut at left tackle last Sunday after switching over from right tackle last week when Taylor Decker was injured. Sewell played left tackle two seasons at Oregon, and he looked right at home for the Lions in their opener.

Sewell allowed just four pressures, two quarterback hits and no sacks lining up across from talented 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa most of the game. After Week 1, Sewell is graded as the No. 11 overall tackle by Pro Football Focus.

This week will be another good test for Sewell with a solid Packers front, though they will be without Za'Darius Smith (back). What can we expect from Sewell's encore performance?

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