Aweek eight bye for the Packers has been exactly what the doctor ordered (pun intended.) Many players took this week to heal up, get rest, and prepare for what looks to be a very unpredictable second half of the 2017 campaign. The first team on the Packers plate, an NFC North rival. A division game is always important, but this one has a lot more significance. Brett Hundley has had two weeks to prepare for this game. If the Packers want to stay in contention, this is a must win. A loss wouldn’t eliminate the Pack from the playoffs, but a win would not only help if Aaron Rodgers is able to come back, it would give the young Hundley confidence in leading this team while Rodgers is sidelined.
Packers defense vs Lions running backs
The Packers are giving up the sixth most rushing yards per game this season. The Lions are the fifth worst rushing offense in terms of rushing yards per game this season, and only have two rushing touchdowns this season. The Packers defense can earn some confidence if they are able to shut down the Lions mediocre run game Monday night. Not only will they earn much needed confidence, stopping the run game will force the Lions to pass it. Allowing for the Packers pass defense, which has significantly improved since last year, to make plays as well.
Packers special teams vs Lions special teams
We have not seen a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown by a Green Bay Packer in a game that mattered since Micah Hyde returned a punt in a week 17 matchup in 2014! The Packers haven’t come close to once since. A great way to take pressure off of Hundley to have an amazing game is to take a punt of kickoff return for a touchdown. Trevor Davis showed promise as the return man in the preseason, taking a punt back to the end zone against the Eagles. If the Packers can get something like that against the Lions, that would be huge, and Trevor Davis has the speed to do it. Even if Davis doesn’t return a kick, getting long returns can prove to be just as effective. Returning punts and kickoffs to mid field would help as well, as getting great field position to start drives will help out Hundley and the offense too.
Players to Watch:
Offense – Lance Kendricks, tight end
With Martellus Bennett doubtful Monday night, Kendricks will become the number one tight end option for the Packers. He has had flashes of great play this season, but nothing spectacular. That could change with an increase of playing time. The Lions defense has fared well against tight ends this year, but expect Hundley to target Kendricks a lot as the tight end is typically the safest throw for a quarterback to make, due to the fact that the tight end is usually the closest option for a quarterback. The Packers also love to run screen plays. Screen play concepts are an easy throw for any quarterback to make, so tight end screens may be called more frequently in the coming weeks.
Defense – Blake Martinez, linebacker
Martinez has not been talked about much at all this season. However, he does lead the Packers in tackles and he is making an impact all over the field. His play has gone unnoticed by most, but he has come into his own during his second season in the league. Expect him to have another good game especially when he is defending the run. He has exceptional speed and is a great leader with the young Packers defense. He is always looking to get better, which is an excellent trait to have when you are still a youngin’ in the league.
It will be close, that is for sure. The game will come down to what team can generate big plays. I think the Packers will have an easier time creating those big plays, especially on offense. If the defense and special teams can make big plays too, the pressure is lessened on Hundley. Packers win 27-23.