The Detroit Lions will try and make it 2-0 under interim head coach Darrell Bevell today when they host the NFC North leading Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Detroit is looking to keep their playoff hopes alive as they sit one game back from the final wild card spot in the NFC. The Packers can punch their ticket to the playoffs with a victory.
Here are five things to watch out for today:
Bevell's first message to the team after taking over as interim head coach was to start having more fun playing the game, and in doing so, Bevell expected to see them play loose and fast. That's exactly what happened last week in the win over Chicago. Veteran running back Adrian Peterson said this weekend that football has been fun again these last two weeks.
Will that translate to the field for a second straight week today against Green Bay? Bevell said the Lions have kind of developed a mantra these last two weeks of playing hard and having fun. Don't hang on to bad plays or a bad series, turn the page, and most importantly, don't worry about the scoreboard and play hard to the final whistle. The effort and playmaking looked different last week. How will it look this afternoon?
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 36 touchdown passes and a 118.5 passer rating. He is leading the No. 1 scoring offense and No. 2 overall offense, and has Green Bay playing some of the best football offensively in his tenure with the Packers.
Detroit comes into this matchup today ranked 26th in the NFL against the pass, allowing on average 261.7 yards per contest.
"I mean, his accuracy, his ability to move, the way his mind is, that he thinks and is able to get in and out of things and get yourself in the best play," Bevell said this week of what Rodgers brings to the game.
The last time we saw Lions running back D’Andre Swift was Week 10 against Washington, when the rookie was making his first start and carving up Washington to the tune of 149 scrimmage yards and a score.
Unfortunately, Lions fans haven't seen Swift since after he developed concussion symptoms after the Washington game and then missed more time due to an illness not related to the concussion or COVID-19. In all, those have cost Swift the last three games.
But he was back on the practice field all week, and Bevell said Friday he's trending toward playing Sunday. The Lions are going to have to score points today to keep up with Green Bay, and getting Swift back should certainly help in that regard. Swift was officially listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.
The Lions had 11 explosive plays last week against Chicago. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit on eight passing plays of 20-plus yards, and five different players caught a pass of 20-plus yards against the Bears.
Teams have played the Lions differently this year, dropping safeties and linebackers deep to help prevent the big play, but last week, due to a number of different circumstances, the big play was back in the Lions' offense, and it helped them secure a win in Chicago.
"When you looked at it, they were just guys that were open down the field," Stafford said. "And some teams are playing ultra, ultra deep, and linebackers are taking away 15-,18-yard routes. That's tough. You're going to have to check it down in those, and we were able to get behind them a little bit.
"We'll take them any way we can get them, whether it's throwing it underneath the coverage and running with it, or throwing it over the top or in between. Just happy that we had some success and obviously it makes drives a little bit easier when you can get a couple chunk plays here or there and get closer to the end zone."
The Packers have been one of the better teams in the league at limiting those 20-plus-yard plays, so it will be interesting to see today if the Lions can find those chunk plays on offense again this week.
In Green Bay's 42-21 victory over the Lions Week 2, the Packers racked up 259 rushing yards with a 7.4 yard average per rush and two rushing touchdowns. Green Bay controlled the game on the ground, and the Lions had no answer for the Packers run game.
Aaron Jones led the charge that game with 168 rushing yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run to begin the second half. Jones had a career-high 236 yards from scrimmage in that game. That's the dangerous part about Jones, according to Lions defensive backs coach Steve Gregory. Jones has 48 targets and 36 receptions for 279 yards and two scores, to go along with his 754 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground.
"Jones out of the backfield is a huge threat," Gregory said. "Both in the run and the pass."