Tha Sports Junkies 101

Green Bay Packers Week 3 Preview: Lambeau Field Awaits

Lambeau Field - NFL aknding via


Packers Return to Lambeau in Search of Mojo

I think it’s fair to assume that most of Green Bay’s ride home last Sunday consisted of the offense harmonizing as one in chanting “there’s no place like Lambeau, there’s no place like Lambeau“, reminiscent of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

After their dismal performance against the Vikings, just as Dorothy did, the Packers will finally get their wish and return home.

Aaron Rodgers Looks to Get Back on Track Against Detroit

Since Aaron Rodgers became the Packers starter in 2008 he has been one of the most dominate players in history inside his home stadium. He has compiled a 50-13 record overall, including 17-5 against the NFC North, and 6-1 against his week 3 opponent, the Detroit Lions.

Last year saw a break from normality when the Lions came into Lambeau and pulled out a 18-16 win for their first and only victory there versus Rodgers.

The Bears and Vikings also escaped with wins at Green Bay in 2015. This means 3 of the 5 losses the Packers have had against the North at Lambeau with Rodgers at QB came last year.

With the downward progression of the Packers offense since last November and the continued struggles so far after 2 weeks this year, a win is far from certain.

Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), through two weeks of the season, the Packers are sitting at the 23rd ranked offense overall. They have been in the top ten for offense 7 of the last 10 seasons. They finished 25th in 2006 and haven’t been close to the bottom since that time.

At the heart of their struggles is the unusual efficiency problems of Rodgers.

Also from PFF, Rodgers has been under pressure on 21-of-81 of his total dropbacks so far this year. Of those 21 dropbacks, he has only three completions on 13 attempts for a 23.1 completion percentage.

As a whole he has only completed 57% of his passes on 70 attempts in 2016. His career percentage is around 65, with most of his best years near 70%.

However, if any team can provide Rodgers with a jump start it may be the Lions.

The Lions Defense May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered for Packers

The Lions defense has allowed a touchdown on 4.75 percent of their plays over the previous 12 months, the third-highest mark in the league. The often injured defense again saw 7 players miss practice to start the week, including starting linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

Detroit’s lack of bodies on defense may be the reason why they played so poorly in a week 1 win at Indianapolis and couldn’t pull out a week 2 win against Tennessee.

Particularly the Lions have found it difficult to stop opposing teams tight ends and running backs in the passing game.

In week 1 against Andrew Luck and the Colts, Indy was able to put up 4 touchdowns through the air. Three of the scores went to tight end’s Dwayne Allen (1) and Jack Doyle (2) respectively. In total they caught 7 passes for 88 yards along with the 3 touchdowns.

They struggled to stop both the Titans tight end Delanie Walker, and running back Demarco Murray in week 2.

Walker totaled 83 yards on 6 receptions and a late game touchdown, and often was able to find gaping holes in the defense.  Murray dominated the game in his own way gaining 89 yards on the ground including a long run of 67. He also led the Titans in catches with 7 out of the backfield, and totaled 145 yards on the game (89 rushing, 56 receiving).

The Lions defense has given up an average of 296 yards passing over the first two games of the year, 22nd in the NFL. They also rank 2nd last in league in touchdowns given up at 6.

With injuries all across the defense, the stage is set for the Packers offense to finally break through. This will only happen as long as the play-calling and player usage improves.

Unpredictability will be Key for McCarthy and his Offense

Head Coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy has taken a lot of criticism the past week over a continued refusal to switch up his gameplan. According to ESPN Stats & Information, in the first two games of 2016 McCarthy has used a three-receiver set on 95 of 123 offensive snaps. Over 90% of those snaps had the same trio on the field (Nelson, Cobb, Adams).

To add to the predictability, almost all of the snaps with three receivers featured one running back and one tight end. This is what is referred to as the “11” package.

For years, it was the Packers ability to spread the ball that made them unstoppable. Going back to the days of Favre and more recently with Rodgers, Green Bay quarterbacks would often complete passes to more than 7 or 8 players a game. Now they are lucky if they even get more than 4 guys involved.

Free-agent acquisition Jared Cook was seen as the ultimate solution to last years problems, but not much has changed.

After Richard Rodgers played most of the tight end snaps week 1, Cook finally got some looks week 2 catching 4 passes for 31 yards, although not nearly enough action. It seems like I say it every week but if there ever was a game to unleash him, it’s Sunday.

Another key will be McCarthy hopefully integrating Jared Abbrederis into the plan this week. Abbrederis is a wild-card within the offense. He has the ability to play in the slot and on the outside, also coupled with outstanding route running. Rodgers has made public his trust in Abbrederis many times making it seemingly inevitable that he gets his chance eventually.

Green Bay uncharacteristically lost the time of possession battle against the Vikings in week 2, and controlling the clock is crucial to the West Coast offense because of the pass-run balance. More effective runs will be an important key to winning. Less draw plays and sweeps to Eddie Lacy is a must, a back like him needs a head start, preferably out of the I-formation with a lead blocker.

A Packers offense that has had it’s core pieces in place for so long is running out of excuses every day. There is no reason a team with this much talent and a future hall-of-famer like Rodgers leading the way shouldn’t be again atop the league.

Green Bay’s Dominate Start on Defense Poised to Continue

Unlike the Packers offense, their defense has been playing among the best in the NFL so far in 2016.

According to the PFF rankings, they are currently the 6th overall defense, while holding the 2nd overall rank in run defense (1st in terms of yards per game), and 3rd in pass rushing.

The Lions have thrown the ball a combined 79 times the past two weeks. This will provide the Packers young, dominate pass rush a chance to make plays all over Lambeau.

One of the most impressive players so far this year has been 5th year outside linebacker Nick Perry.

He has played the 3rd most amount of snaps for the Packers defense and ranks 3rd for all 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL. His 11 total pressures is tied for 1st in the entire league for 3-4 outside linebackers. Those have come from two sacks and nine quarterback hurries.

His performance has been necessary because of nagging injuries to Clay Matthews and a reduced snap count for Julius Peppers.

Week 2 against the Vikings proved that despite Peppers diminished playing time, his productivity has increased. He was able to get a pair of sacks and a pair of both hits and hurries, as he tormented the Minnesota tackles over 27 snaps of action, 19 of which were pass rushes.

The defense as a whole has been impressive so far this year, and over the years have always found a way to create turnovers against the Lions.

In each of the past 4 games against Green Bay, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has lost a fumble or thrown at least one interception. He is a quarterback already prone to mistakes, and a solid pass rush will only increase his odds of turning the ball over.

Even though he may make bad decisions, Stafford is still capable of slinging the ball around the field. However, for the first time in his career he will be without Calvin Johnson as a target full-time.

So far this year, the offense has surprisingly looked better than previous years with Johnson. The Lions have opened up their playbook and used more weapons than usual. Receivers like Golden Tate and Free-agent pickups Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin have looked dangerous.

Jones, formerly of the Bengals, put up huge stats last week catching 8 balls for 118 yards against Tennessee, while Boldin caught 4 passes for over 10 yards a reception and a touchdown.

Running back Theo Riddick has also proved to be a force in the pass game over the past two years. In his four seasons in the NFL, Riddick has caught 127 passes for 1, 130 yards and 8 touchdowns out of the running back position. This is compared to only 290 yards rushing, a clear picture of what his main job is when on the field.

This week, his role with be significantly more important as he will take over as lead back because of an injury to starter Ameer Abdullah.

This means that the Packers have essentially faced a back-up running back in each of their first three games, if you count Peterson leaving Sunday’s game early. No doubt this could be a factor in the Packers rush defense being top of the league.

Riddick and the Lions sub-par line will be trying to run against a front 7 for Green Bay allowing only 78 yards on 48 attempts in two games (1.6 per carry).

Final Thoughts

It seems the Packers have a decided edge in almost every category once again in week 3. The talent on this team should be overwhelming for Detroit, but talent alone can’t be banked on anymore.

This is a week for confidence. I don’t believe this is a game the Packers can be happy with a close win. Despite every victory being important in the NFL, lopsided wins against teams like the Lions are what increase a teams belief in themselves going forward. Sunday at Lambeau, it’s officially time for Green Bay to reestablish their alpha status while they still can.