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5 things to watch: Lions at Packers

The Lions are fresh off their bye week and ready for their first NFC North division game of the season tonight in Green Bay in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.

Detroit will be looking to get back on track after falling to Kansas City Week 4. First place in the division is on the line tonight.

Here's a look at five things to watch out for:


The inactive list doesn't come out until 90 minutes before tonight's kickoff, but last week's bye seemed to come at a good time for some key players that either missed the Kansas City game Week 4 before the bye, or left the game early with injury.

The only Lion who didn't practice in some capacity this week was defensive lineman Mike Daniels. Daniels and rookie cornerback Amani Oruwariye have already been ruled out for tonight's contest.

Cornerback Darius Slay (hamstring) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (chest) missed the Chiefs game due to injury, but both returned to practice this week and looked much more prepared to play than they did in the days leading up to the Chiefs game, when they were very limited in practice.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson left the Chiefs game with a concussion, but he was back at practice this week and progressing nicely through the return-to-play protocol.

Safety Quandre Diggs left the Chiefs game due to a hamstring injury. Of the players listed as limited participants in practice this week, he seemed the most limited of the group. We'll see what his availability looks like for tonight.

But overall, the Lions could get some key pieces back from injury this week.


Detroit fumbled away an opportunity to upset Kansas City a couple weeks ago with two lost fumbles inside the Chiefs' 5-yard line. One of them, a fumble by running back Kerryon Johnson at the 1-yard line, was returned 99 yards for a Chiefs touchdown. That was a 14-point swing in an eventual 34-30 loss.

The Lions have been good in a lot of areas on offense early this year, but they have to continue to find ways to be better in the red zone. Detroit's touchdown percentage in the red zone of 53.8 percent ranks 18th in the NFL. Their percentage of successful plays inside the opponent 20-yard line is 34.4 percent. Only Tampa Bay and Miami have a lower percentage.

On the road, against a familiar foe in Green Bay that's playing some pretty good football right now, taking advantage of scoring opportunities will be a big key for Detroit.


Mike Pettine's defense is producing a quarterback sack, hit or pressure on 30.1 percent of opponent dropbacks without having to blitz, according to ESPN's NFL Matchup, which is the highest percentage in the NFL.

Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith have been very good along the edges of Pettine's defense.

They've combined for 10.5 sacks and 21 quarterback hits through five games. Preston Smith ranks fifth in sacks (5.5) and tied for fourth in quarterback hits with 10. Za'Darius Smith is tied for sixth in sacks (5.0) and tied for second in quarterback hits with 11.

The ability to pressure the quarterback with the front four and play coverage behind them has been one of the big keys to Green Bay's success on defense. Running the football and neutralizing the Packers' pass rush will be important for Detroit.


Packers running back Aaron Jones is coming off a four-touchdown performance in Dallas. Jones leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns on the year. New Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has installed a stretch zone running scheme, and it appears to fit Jones' running style nicely.

The Packers have rushed for 120-plus yards in two of the last four weeks, averaging more than 4.0 yards per carry in the process, so they'll come into Monday night wanting to establish the run. It will be up to the Lions to force them out of it.


Quarterback Matthew Stafford is slinging the ball down the field and distributing it to multiple weapons with the big play back in the Lions' passing game under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

"I thought we were explosive in the first half, which was good – both in the run and the pass," Stafford said. "We had some big plays and those lead to points in this league no question about it."

Stafford is one of only 10 quarterbacks currently in the league with a 100.0-plus passer rating (102.6). He has nine touchdowns and two interceptions in four games. He's averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt and has 18 completions of 21-plus yards, tied for seventh most in the NFL.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to be one of the game's best. He's never been afraid to cut the ball loose down the field. Rodgers has four completions of 40-plus yards on the year, tied for the sixth most in the league. Dating back to 2008, Rodgers ranks second in the NFL behind only Saints quarterback Drew Brees in 40-yard pass plays with 127 to Brees' 128.

In nine home starts vs. Detroit, Rodgers has 17 touchdowns to only three interceptions for a 109.4 rating. He has 1,398 yards (394.5 per game) and 12 touchdowns with no interceptions for a 120.1 passer rating in his past four games on Monday Night Football.

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