The Lions Play The Packers On Sunday Night For The NFC North Title.
The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in football right now. The Detroit Lions have dropped two straight games to playoff teams. The arrows for these teams point in opposite directions and the NFC North title is on the line in week seventeen of the NFL season. It all comes down to this one game for the Lions. If they win, their critics and a large part of their fan base are wrong. If they lose then chants of “Same Old Lions” will grow from the current dull roar to shake the tubes of the Internet. Many Lions fans have been sharpening their pitchforks and readying torches for weeks.
Aaron Rogers ripped apart Terrel Austin’s defense early in the previous match up between these two teams. The Lions got no pressure and covered poorly in the first half. The scoreboard reflected that state of affairs, with the Packers gaining an early lead. The Lions roared back in the second half and fell just short of a comeback victory. A full four quarter effort (also known as a unicorn to lions fans) will likely be required for the Lions to come away with the NFC North crown.
The Three Man Front
The Lions have a young offensive line. Because of that they have difficulty adjusting to the varying sources that pressure can come from when facing a 3-4 defense. The cowboys spent a large portion of the second half in a three man front with six defensive backs on the field. This allowed them to bring pressure quickly, and from multiple directions. Their blitz packages turned Detroit’s offensive line in knots. The Lions have had difficulty getting three man fronts blocked all season and Travis Swanson’s absence has compounded the issue. Look for Green Bay to utilize a similar strategy, perhaps with linebackers rather than defensive backs. Green Bay utilizes a 3-4 front as their base defense making the Cowboys strategy easy to emulate with their athletic linebacker group. If the Lions cannot figure out how to get their blocking scheme fixed their season could end on Sunday.
The Hidden Enemy
The Lions have been battling the referees almost as much as they’ve been battling the other team each week. It is not a conspiracy, it is just poor officiating. #fireblandino is the hashtag you want to use, my friends, in the wake of this week’s inevitable key mistake. From last week’s “tackling too hard” penalty on A’Shawn Robinson to the “fail Mary” last season; the Lions have gained little and lost much. The NFL is on what appears to be a downward overall trend in its product quality and officiating is a huge part of that. I think Lions and Packers fans alike could agree that it would be best for this to not be a factor in this week’s game. Actually Packers fans love nothing more than being handed BS victories, because they are horrible people. There goes my three packer fans following on twitter.
A coach can’t assume that the other team will fail to adjust in the second half. It is just as foolhardy to assume that the other team’s adjustments are going to work. All year the Lions have been making sweeping changes from the first half to the second whether they are up or down. Last week they abandoned the power running game with Zach Zenner in the second half, and their defensive adjustments failed miserably.
More often than not the Lions have come out on top, but at times they have made fans tear their hair out with mind boggling alterations to their offensive and defensive strategies. None of us are really qualified to judge their reasoning, but the results have been less than stellar lately. What it can mess down to is that the Lions can’t come out of the gate slowly and rely on Matthew Stafford to drag them back in to the game.
His injury combined with the loss of Theo Riddick and Travis Swanson has greatly reduced the effectiveness of the Lions passing game. The Lions coaches need to be prepared for battle this week. They need to win a coaching battle against one of the NFL’s elite staffs.
Show Us What You’ve Got
This is the week that the Lions finally tell us who they are in 2016. Backing in to the playoffs with three straight losses (which they will do with a Washington loss or tie) would not change this team’s narrative. A decisive victory over the red hot Green Bay Packers would force the national media to change their depiction of the NFC North picture.
In the end this game could result in any outcome from missing the playoffs entirely for the second straight season to a first round playoff bye. Since the game was flexed to an evening start we will know exactly what is at stake at kickoff. Even if the Lions do not need to win to get in to the playoffs, or can not claim a first round bye with a victory, they need to win this game for the questions about their true quality to go away.