GREEN BAY – Lions-Packers final thoughts: Riley Reiff's value, Lions on the run, four things to watch, recent history gives underdog Lions hope, and the bottom line:
Starters, O-line: Riley Reiff is looking like a king in the shuffle of pieces in the chess game the Lions played in the offseason to improve the offensive line.
After four seasons at left tackle – the last three as the full-time starter – Reiff is at right tackle this year as part of an overall plan of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell.
Reiff's switch was made possible when first-round draft pick Taylor Decker showed early in the offseason workouts that he had the ability to play left tackle.
Reiff's ability to make the conversion is an example of how one move can help implement a plan to strengthen two positions, which in turn benefited the entire unit. Reiff has played well on a unit that has made marked improvement.
Per usual, Reiff let his actions do the talking when asked about his play so far at right tackle and the test facing him today.
"They put the five best guys out there," Reiff said. "Wherever they want me to line up , I line up. It's still blocking people. Same thing on the left side, just going a different way.
"We just try to improve every day, try to do what they're teaching us to do and execute."
On the run: The Packers' run defense has put up a brick wall, holding teams to 78 yards and a 1.6-yard average per carry in the first two games.
Despite those stingy stats, don't expect the Lions to abandon the run game because of the loss of Ameer Abdullah with a foot injury. The run game is the Lions' most improved area, as the following stats show:
Two-game run stats, 2016: 253 yards on 47 total attempts, for an average of 5.38 yards per attempt.
Five-game run stats, 2015: 244 yards, 87 attempts, 2.80 yards per attempt.
Bottom line: The Lions have rushed for nine more yards in two games than they did in the first five a year ago, and they've done it with 40 fewer attempts. That might partially explain why they were 0-5 last year.
Four things to watch:
1. QB Aaron Rodgers forcing the action early with his arm. He looked agitated in his interview session with the Green Bay media. No matter how much success he's had, Rodgers has to be bothered by the criticism he's gotten for his performance – or lack of it – in the first two games.
2. Golden Tate being more productive. He had two catches on nine targets against the Titans after going seven for seven in the opener against the Colts.
3. Punter Sam Martin giving the Lions a field-position advantage. His net average for two games is 47.8 yards, with seven punts inside the 20. Packers punter Jacob Schum has a net average of 40.3 yards, with one punt inside the 20.
4. Rodgers targeting tight ends Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers. The Lions have given up four TD passes to tight ends in the first two games.
Hope for Twitter Nation: In response to a tweet this week asking – pleading, actually – for reasons to hope for a Lions victory at Lambeau, I offer the following:
Lions-Packers, last 5 games: The Lions are 3-2, beginning with a 40-10 wipeout on Thanksgiving Day.
Last 5 regulation time: The Lions are 4-1 after the full 60 minutes. The Hail Mary that gave the Packers a 27-23 win last year came on a play that was run after time expired. By rule, the Packers got another play when the Lions were called for a defensive penalty.
But after 60 minutes, the Lions had a 23-21 lead.
(Note: this is a stretch, but if you're looking for hope, there it is.)
Last 5 points differential: The Lions have outscored the Packers, 120-90.
Streak-snapper: Last year's 18-16 win at Lambeau ended the Lions' 24-game road losing streak to the Packers. The Lions can say anything they want, but getting the 24-ton wheel of Wisconsin cheddar of their back is a relief.
Bottom line: The Packers are favored, as they should be, and my pick stands: Packers 26, Lions 17. But I look for the outcome to be in doubt into the fourth quarter.