O’HARA’S WEEK 6 CHECKLIST: Lions at Packers

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. feels good about where the Detroit Lions are headed, and also about his role in the offense.

That’s a good combination for the veteran receiver as the Lions restart their season on prime time TV on the road against the Green Bay Packers Monday night.

The Lions are in the NFC North race with a 2-1-1 record as they face the first-place Packers in one of the highlight games of the Week 6 schedule in their return from a bye week.

The offense has been pushing the ball down the field under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, and the running game got going in the last game before the bye. Running back Kerryon Johnson rushed for a season-high 125 yards.

It’s a key game in terms of position in the North standings, but it can’t be considered a pivotal one this early in the season.

A win would strengthen the Packers’ hold on first place with a 5-1 record and open a wider gap over the Lions at 2-2-1.

A win for the Lions would put them in first place at 3-1-1.

“I think we're in a good position,” Jones said. “Obviously, we’ve done some good things, and there are some things we wish we could have done better.

“It’s a new slate. We’re going to go out there and do what we do.”

Jones was a beneficiary in the first four games of Bevell’s offensive design that takes advantage of quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability to get the ball downfield and complete passes against tight coverage.

Jones has 18 catches for 277 yards and a team-high 15.4 yards per catch. He’s not the only one who has stretched the field.

All five starters have averaged more than 12 yards per catch, as follows:

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay: 19 catches, 243 yards, 12.8 yards per catch, four TDs.

Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.: 18 catches, 277 yards, 15.4 yards per catch, one TD.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola: 11 catches, 141 yards, 12.8 per catch, one TD.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson: 11 catches, 166 yards, 15.1 per catch, two TDs.

Running back Kerryon Johnson: 7 catches, 99 yards, 14.1 per catch, one TD.

Bevell’s offense – and Stafford’s ability to run it – plays to Jones’ strength. He has averaged 16.7 yards on 196 catches since coming to the Lions as a free agent in 2016.

The Lions will have to work for their catches and yards against a Packers secondary that has seven interceptions, three of them in last week’s win over the Cowboys.

“They have a good group,” Jones said. “They play man to man. They want their guys to cover guys. They try to turn the ball over. Their whole defense does.

“They play tough football. It’ll be a good matchup.”

Series history: Dating back to the first game in 1930, the Packers have a 98-72 record with seven ties in the postseason. They are 2-0 in the postseason, with wins in 1993 and ’94.

Recent history: The Lions have a 7-4 record, starting with a 40-10 win on Thanksgiving Day in 2013. They have won four straight and three of the last four at Lambeau.

2018, Lions sweep: The Lions won both games – 31-23 at Ford Field in Week 5 with four sacks of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that caused two fumble recoveries, and 31-0 in the final game when Rodgers was knocked out of the game early with a concussion.

Packers -- Aaron x2: Rodgers has been a nemesis for the Lions – and every team in the NFL -- since becoming the Packers’ starter in 2008, but running back Aaron Jones has emerged as a new offensive threat.

Jones wasn’t unknown before this year. He rushed for 448 yards and four TDs as a rookie in 2017 and 728 yards and eight TDs in 2018. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry both years.

Jones broke out on national TV in last week’s win over the Cowboys, rushing for 107 yards and four TDs and adding seven receptions for 75 yards.

In a video interview posted this week on the Packers’ website, Jones said he competes against the opposing team’s running back. Last week it was the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott.

“I go into every game like that,” Jones said. “I try to be the best back on the field at all times. Any game I go into, I take it as I’m in competition with that team’s back.

“This game, it just so happened to be Zeke. I out-dueled him. I feel like I can do that every week.”

Jones vs. Lions: He has faced them twice – both losses. He had seven carries for 40 yards and two catches for 19 in a Monday Night loss at Lambeau in 2017; last year he had five carries for 12 yards and two catches for minus one yard in a loss to the Lions at Ford Field.

Prediction: The Packers are good, but not as good as some of their teams that made the playoffs eight straight years from 2009-2007 and won five division titles. The Lions played one of their best games last year coming out of the bye in a road win over Miami in high heat and humidity. Weather won’t be a factor Monday night at Lambeau. What matters is that the Lions are a better team than last year. Time for the defense to step up and stop the run.

Pick: Lions 31, Packers 30.

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