GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Green Bay Packers, sitting at 2-1, are all set for a Thursday night divisional matchup against the 2-1 Detroit Lions. Both teams are coming off bounce-back victories in Week 3 after losing the previous week.
1. Get After Goff
There’s a reason that the Los Angeles Rams traded Jared Goff to Detroit, and it’s because Sean McVay and Company didn’t think that he could eventually take their team over the top and win a Super Bowl. And they made the right move going after Matthew Stafford, when they made one major playoff run after the 2021 season that brought them the Lombardi trophy.
In his 7-plus seasons, Goff has thrown for over 26,000 yards with 160 touchdowns and 72 interceptions. Those numbers are pretty impressive in any era, but when Goff plays against the Packers, he has a 4-2 record in his career and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions. All but one of those games mattered and the biggest one was last year when the Lions were playing for pride, and the Packers were playing for the postseason. Goff was 23-34 for 266 yards passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions, so everyone knows he can manage a game and win on the road in a big moment, which is exactly the position he will be in on Thursday at Lambeau Field.
2. Contain Aidan
The University of Michigan has produced its share of great NFL players, but two of the youngest and most productive defensive linemen have come out of Ann Arbor in the past few years. (We will get to Rashan Gary shortly.) Yes, they are referred to as edge rushers, but Aidan Hutchinson is far more than just that. The Lions move him all over the defensive front, so he could be a matchup nightmare depending on who he lines up over.
Last year, Hutchinson was a force in both of their matchups against Green Bay and he had two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. In those games, he primarily faced David Bakhtiari on the field for most of each contest, but he and Elgton Jenkins have already been ruled out of tonight’s game. In Bakhtiari’s absence the last two weeks, Rasheed Walker has been pretty solid filling in, and you haven’t heard his name much, that’s always a good thing for an offensive lineman.
Hutchinson has gotten to the QB quite a bit already this year with 2 sacks and 19 pressures, so expect him to try and wreck the Packers game plan wherever position the Lions put him in.
3. Recovered Rashan
I’m not sure what’s more impressive; that Rashan Gary was ready to play in Green Bay’s season opener on the road in Chicago, or that he has made the most out of his minimal snaps, in just the first three games of the season.
Coming back from a torn ACL last year against Detroit on the road, Gary’s presence has been felt on the football field, and in the locker room. Heading into Thursday night’s game, TJ Watt leads the league in sacks with six and also has a pressure rate of 12.71%, which is also the highest in the NFL. Gary is second behind him at a 12.28% pressure rate, and he has less than half the amount of snaps as Watt, with only 57 on the season.
Gary is tied for sixth in total sacks with 3 1/2, and 10th in total pressures, so it is safe to say that he is one of the premier edge rushers in the entire NFL. To quote his favorite comic book character Bane, “I was wondering what would break first… your spirit… or your body.” At this point? Gary is back and doing just fine in both categories.
4. Special Teams
After struggling a bit in the preseason, Packers kicker Anders Carlson is perfect. Three for three from field-goal range, and nine for nine on extra points. He has already booted a 52-yard field goal and has shown the kind of leg that should give Rich Bisaccia and the entire Packers coaching staff confidence in him up to at least 60 yards. That’s why they drafted him.
Keisean Nixon and Jaden Reed have carried the load in the return game, and each have shown enough burst not to even consider any sort of changes. Daniel Whelan has 13 punts on the season and has averaged over 46 yards per boot with a respectable net and three punches inside the 20-yard line, with three touchbacks. However, he was one of the reasons that Green Bay ended up giving up a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against New Orleans. After a bit of a shank, not only did the Packers cover unit over-pursue on the kick, poor spacing, and a gaping hole led to the score. Rashid Shahid was one of the fastest football players on the field last Sunday and Whelan was not in a position to make a touchdown-saving tackle, and there is not a single punter in the league that could run with Shahid.
Rich Masaccio has shored up most of the glaring weaknesses on special teams overall, and you can bet this will be fixed against Detroit tonight.
5. Early-Season Supremacy
Yes, it is only Week 4 of the NFL season, but with both Chicago and Minnesota starting the season 0-3, tonight’s game against the Lions could go a long way in eventually deciding who wins the NFC North.
This short week will put a strain on both clubs and sometimes Thursday Night Football is about which team takes advantage regarding rest and recovery. The Lions and Packers are both dealing with significant injuries along the offensive line and at the running back position, so this game might come down to defense. Green Bay’s defense only allowed 10 points against the Saints but Detroit’s defense had arguably their best performance of the season last week holding the Falcons (who beat Green Bay) to just 6 points. The Lions were stingy to the tune of 183 total yards of offense with Atlanta’s vaunted ground game being shut down to just 44 rushing yards. The Packers go into the night as a -1.5 underdog and ever since Dan Campbell changed the attitude and style in Detroit, expect a serious slugfest.