I wish I would have thought of this idea earlier so I would have sixteen companion pieces for the Packers season. Well, I didn’t, so we’ll have to try for thirteen instead.

I thought it would be a really fun idea to reach out to bloggers who write about Packers’ opponents. It’s always nice to get their perspective about upcoming games.

This week, I reached out to Nate Washuta (@NateWashuta on Twitter; holyschwartz@washuta.net) who runs the Detroit Lions fan blog Holy Schwartz!  His blog is based in statistical analyses and fresh insights, so it’s a great read if you’re a football fan in general, and not just a Lions fan.

He was kind enough to answer my questions about the upcoming Packers vs. Lions game. So, join me in welcoming Nate to the Pocket Doppler community and thanking him for giving us his time and perspectives.

I asked him a series of questions, which he was gracious enough to answer.

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become a Lions fan? What got you involved with blogging about the Lions?

I’m not your typical Lions fan. I grew up in New Jersey and currently live in Maryland. I’ve never been to Detroit and hadn’t seen the Lions live until I was lucky enough to see them get destroyed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. That said, I’ve been a fan since I was a kid because my dad has been a fan since he was a kid. He picked the best teams around in the late 50s, and the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Lions spent a long time not living up to the billing. I got involved in blogging a few years ago as a hobby and I’ve been lucky enough to carve out a little niche doing some unique statistical analysis (and also weird 90s pop culture references).

2) Where do Lions fans rank the Packers in their list of most hated rivals?

For a long time (like, years), I didn’t even look at the standings because the Lions were so bad, so divisional foes didn’t really exist. Now that the Lions are actually halfway decent, these games actually have some weight to them. I can’t speak for everyone, but the Packers and Bears are obviously the most hated. Games against the Bears always seem a little chippier, but the huge losing streak at Lambeau is particularly embarrassing, so it’s really 1a and 1b for me. If I was forced to choose, I’d probably say I hate the Bears more.

3) Let’s just get this question out of the way. Is Ndamukong Suh a dirty player?

Yes and no. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on this topic . Suh certainly toes the line and the stomp on Evan Dietrich-Smith a few years ago was almost certainly dirty. Since then, the national media has picked over his game tape with a fine-toothed comb and feigned moral outrage at every misstep. If every football player faced the same scrutiny, they’d be considered dirty too (Clay Matthews’ flying superman hit on Kaepernick would have landed Suh in jail).

4) Are the Lions a legitimate contender to win their division and/or the Super Bowl this year?

Looking at past Super Bowl winners, these phrases mean the same thing. As long as you make the postseason, you have a chance to win the Super Bowl. I think the Lions’ early season success has at least put them in the conversation. The Lions are one of only 4 teams in the NFC with a winning record, so they’re at least ahead of the curve so far. They’ve solved their most pressing issues from previous years and look better than they were when they went 10-6 in 2011. Considering the rest of their schedule is shaping up to be pretty soft, I think they have a good shot at the playoffs.

5) Other than Matthew Stafford, Megatron, and Ndamuking Suh, who are some players that Packers fans must know about?

First of all, you have to know the running backs. Joique Bell is a weapon you have to account for and Reggie Bush is a weapon you can’t account for. Reggie Bush may be the most dangerous receiver on the team (yes, I even consider Megatron). You can’t just stick a corner and a safety on Bush to take him out of the game. Coming out of the backfield, you’re almost certainly going to get him matched up on a linebacker and Reggie made both the Vikings and Bears linebackers look like their feet were stuck in cement.

On the defensive side, the whole line gets their names called pretty often. Suh is the best of them, but Nick Fairley was touted by some before the season as one of the best DTs in the game (and maybe better than Suh). Off the edge, Willie Young and Ziggy Ansah have really stepped up to the plate and have been making a big impact as well.

6) What are some keys to the game that will lead to a Lions win?

The Lions need to keep on doing what they’ve been doing. On defense, they get pressure on the QB and force turnovers. As far as I’m concerned, the defensive line can’t be stopped. On offense, they take advantage of all the attention teams pay to Calvin by running between the tackles or making short, quick passes. If Reggie stays healthy, that’s a surefire offensive strategy.

7) What are some keys to the game that will lead to a Packers win?

They need to get the ball out quick. The Lions have thrived with this approach all year. Matt Stafford has the lowest average time to throw (2.24 seconds) in the NFL and of course, his young, unproven offensive line is getting all the praise. The fact of the matter is that a D-line just can’t get pressure in such a short amount of time. The Packers will need to take a similar approach to keep the Lions out of their backfield.

On defense, I would force Stafford to stand in the pocket and make downfield throws. He’s thrived with short routes to the middle of the field, while his downfield options look a lot less promising. Of course Megatron is great, but the WR opposite him is Kris Durham, who has never shown much of anything. The tight ends have also been a disappointment, where Pettigrew’s hands of stone have gotten…stonier? And Tony Scheffler doesn’t get any separation whatsoever. Also, watch the screen. The screen game is the Lions’ bread and butter and they might throw the most screens of anyone in football.

8) Who wins the game and what is the score?

I’m legitimately excited about the Lions this year and they’ve answered all the questions that I had for them coming into the season. That said, a healthy dose of “We’re talking about the Lions here” will always exist. The USSR was still around the last time the Lions won in Lambeau. That’s a real fact. So I’ll assume a Packers win and hope it turns out otherwise. I’ll say Packers 35 – 22 Lions.

Again, join me in thanking Nate for giving us some fresh insights for this week’s game!

 

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