Attempting to remove the bitter taste of defeat from their mouths, the Detroit Lions hit the road this weekend to take on the Green Bay Packers, the team which started this most recent three game streak of futility with a comeback win in November. Now, Detroit has the unenviable task of trying to get revenge for that game in Wisconsin, as they must attempt to break a dramatic two decade losing streak at Lambeau Field.
Games in Green Bay usually get ugly fast for the Lions, but all streaks are meant to be broken eventually. What do the Lions have to look out for this time to make it happen in 2012? Here's this week's game preview.
1. Success Of The Packers' Running Game. The last time these two teams met, James Starks had a decent day on the ground and ran for 74 yards on 25 carries. The totals weren't much and Starks never found the end zone, but the threat of his running helped the passing game out. This week, the Packers have resigned former Lions' terrorist Ryan Grant. How big of a role will Grant play this week? As we mentioned earlier this week, if Green Bay can get anything out of the running game, things won't be looking so good through the air for Detroit's dinged up secondary.
2. Green Bay's Protection Of Aaron Rodgers. The Lions defensive front made a big impact on the last game in Detroit, sacking Rodgers twice and hassling him most of the afternoon. Nick Fairley and Cliff Avril were the most active players in the backfield. As this week's inside the numbers segment explained, the Packers don't protect the quarterback well at all. Will they clean that up this week? If the Lions are able to get in Rodgers' face again and keep him uncomfortable, he'll likely have a tough night.
3. Detroit's Revolving Door At Wide Receiver. Now, Ryan Broyles is this group's latest casualty with yet another ACL injury. Titus Young has been lost for the season with his knee problem (a convenient way of saying he's been shelved for insubordination) and Nate Burleson has been out of the picture since October with a broken leg. Who's left? A guy you may have heard of named Calvin Johnson and complementary piece Mike Thomas. The pressure will be on Thomas to play well opposite Johnson, but also, the Lions must see what they can get out of newly signed Lance Long. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler should also see expanded roles. The Lions will need everyone to catch the ball and play well Sunday night if they hope to score enough to win.
4. Killer Instinct. That's the one single element which has been missing the most from the Lions in 2012. When this team badly needs a touchdown or a big defensive stop, they're never able to get it. To break a streak which has lasted decades, the Lions will have to magically put their Superman capes on, sprout a killer instinct on Sunday Night Football and play a complete game. It won't be easy, but Detroit must score the backbreaking touchdown if they have the chance or make an interception or force a fumble at a key moment. If the Lions can finally make a big play late in a close game, they will have a chance to do something not many Lion teams have been able to do. It will take everybody pulling together, but where there's a killer instinct, there's always a way.
5. Will The Usual Lambeau Ghosts Show Up? Whether it was losing in overtime in 2005 thanks to a strange forward pass call in the end zone or being downed by the career day of a back up quarterback in 2011, the Lions can never ever catch a break in Green Bay. They always get victimized by bad calls, bad bounces and bad breaks. Yes, they're mostly to blame due to their own bad play, but it seems like the ghost of Vince Lombardi just doesn't want Detroit to ever get the job done on the frozen tundra, even when they give themselves a decent chance to. Will a strange misfortune befall the Lions this year at Lambeau Field, or will this be the time that they finally get a few good breaks and win?
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