Old rivals from the NFC North will meet in Week 5 as the Green Bay Packers pay a visit to the Detroit Lions. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, October 7, at Ford Field in Detroit. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Based on this week’s NFL betting odds, the Packers are 1.5-point favorites on the road. That line has increased slightly after Green Bay opened the week as a 1-point favorite. The over/under for the game is set at 51 points.
The Lions enter this matchup as the more desperate of the two teams. Things have improved substantially for Detroit after their blowout loss to the Jets in Week 1. However, the Lions have still lost close road games against both the 49ers and Cowboys during the early part of the season. A surprising win over the Patriots in Week 3 is the only thing keeping the Lions from being winless heading into October. All is not lost quite yet for Matt Patricia’s team, but the Lions can’t afford to fall any deeper into the basement of the NFC North.
The Packers will also be a little disappointed with their performance early in the year. They couldn’t close out a home game against the Vikings in Week 2, ultimately settling for a tie. The Pack then suffered a two-touchdown loss to the Redskins the following week. If not for an amazing comeback against the Bears in Week 1, the Packers might be in serious trouble right now. Of course, Green Bay is coming off a convincing 22-0 win over the Bills last week, so things appear to be moving in the right direction.
Detroit actually pulled off the sweep of the Packers last season. Of course, Aaron Rodgers was a non-participant in both meetings. Prior to last season, the Packers won nine of the last 12 games in this rivalry, so they’ve had their way with the Lions for most of the current decade.
Detroit’s desperation may end up paying off this week. If you can throw out their Week 1 performance, the Lions have played a lot better than a 1-3 team. They know they need a win, and I can see them getting it at home against a Green Bay team that has looked fairly average and could be a little overconfident after last week’s comfortable win.
One thing that stands out about Green Bay is how poorly they played in their one and only road game this season. They were downright bad a couple weeks ago at Washington, so I think it’s fair to question if they’ll be able to play any better on the road this week. Meanwhile, the Lions were outstanding the last time they played at home, as they dominated the Patriots, which I think bodes well for them this week.
The other question I have about the Packers is their defense. On paper, the numbers look good, especially against the pass. But you have to take into account the competition they’ve faced. Green Bay has faced Mitchell Trubisky, Josh Allen, and Alex Smith this season. You wouldn’t expect any of those quarterbacks to put up big numbers. Meanwhile, when they faced Kirk Cousins, the Green Bay defense gave up over 400 yards through the air.
Against Detroit, the ability to defend the pass will be vital. Since that Week 1 debacle, Matthew Stafford has seven touchdowns to just one interception. Regardless of the team results, his performance has improved every single week. The weapons around him are also improving. Kenny Golladay is looking more like a viable complement to Golden Tate. Also, running back Kerryon Johnson is improving week by week, giving the Lions a viable rushing attack.
I’m willing to bet that the Lions will have another strong offensive performance, forcing Rodgers and company into a shootout. Usually, that wouldn’t be a problem for the Packers. However, Rodgers and about half of Green Bay’s offensive starters are battling injuries. Those nagging injuries could prevent the Packers from being at their best on Sunday. With Rodgers, his knee injury hasn’t been obvious the past couple of weeks, but it’s important to remember that he’s not 100% healthy or as mobile as he usually is.
Obviously, I’m not going to claim that Detroit’s defense is anything special. However, they do have a defensive minded head coach. The Lions also dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots at home just a couple weeks ago. It’s not completely unrealistic to think they can put together a similar performance against Rodgers and the Packers.
In all likelihood, this will be a close game that goes down to the wire. Given Green Bay’s struggles on the road and their banged-up offense, I’m a little more comfortable leaning toward the Lions. Remember, Detroit is desperate for a win, and sometimes that’s enough to get a team over the hump, especially at home in a rivalry game. I’ll take my chances with the Lions beating the Packers.