As we head into week 5 of the NFL season, more questions than answers surround the Green Bay Packers. Injuries once again are running rampant over the team. Several key players have missed time already including Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, and John Kuhn.

A handful of these players look to return for the week 5 matchup against the Detroit Lions, barring any setbacks. This list includes Lacy, Franklin, Finley, Burnett, Bush, Matthews and Kuhn.

I hate to break out the “must win” cliché, but to say this week’s game at home against divisional rival Detroit is important would be a massive understatement. The Packers can ill afford to drop to 1-3 with two conference losses in the first four games. That’s not to say the season would be over, but they would definitely be behind the eight ball with the Bears at 3-1 and looking quite improved under Coach Trestman. Not to mention the Packers have a date with the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, which is never easy.

The Detroit Lions come into Lambeau with their usual array of talent including standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Johnson is nursing a sore knee, but is fully expected to suit up. This year they added Reggie Bush to the mix, and he’s looked fantastic sporting a 5.3 yards per carry average.

Stafford has been great, and the Lions are one of just five teams averaging at least 400 yards per game (404.8), and they’re fourth at 30.5 points per game. Stafford is completing 64.1 percent of his passes, which would be a career high over the course of a full season. He has seven touchdowns and just three interceptions. This will be a real test for a somewhat banged up Packers’ defense.

On defense their front four looks rejuvenated after the addition of first round pick Ziggy Ansah. He’s already racked up 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks through the first four weeks.
The Lions also added free agent Jason Jones, but was lost last week to a torn patellar tendon. Ndamukong Suh is his usual dominate self and will continue to provide matchup nightmares for the Packers’ offensive line, along with defensive lineman Nick Fairley.

Needless to say, the Packers’ offensive line has its work cut out for them this week.

The Lions can be passed on however, and with starting cornerbacks Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis both banged up, there should be opportunities for Aaron Rodgers to exploit in the secondary.

The Lions are 22nd in the league in pass defense giving up an average of 268 yards per game. Mathis may play, but Houston’s absence would mean rookie Darious Slay would be forced into action covering wide receivers James Jones or Jordy Nelson, which is a serious matchup opportunity for the Packers.

The Packers will need to keep this defense honest with their new found running game. Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin will need to be productive to keep the Lions front seven from consistently coming after quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Production in the running game also opens up other offensive opportunities such as the play action pass.

I think the Packers will win this game, but make no mistake it will be competitive, and if Matthews goes down again for an extended period of time I could see it going the other way as well. Packers get a win 28-24.


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