During the offseason, much was made about a heated war of words between Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings. When Jennings left the Green Bay Packers for the Minnesota Vikings, it seemed he had an agenda to air dirty laundry, which stole plenty of headlines.
Now, the bigger news is just how well the Packers have done without Jennings. Jordy Nelson has become the next man up, and has three touchdowns and 289 yards through three games as the top option. Certainly, the Packers aren't without their other difficulties, but finding offense in the absence of a former top contributor hasn't been one of them.
What else sets the Packers apart this season? Throw the records out, because today, we put the cheese heads under the microscope and break down Detroit's toughest test of the young season.
Packers' Offensive Difference Maker: Randall Cobb, WR. Though Nelson gets all the praise and is the top receiving option, Cobb is becoming a very dangerous threat down field. Career, Cobb already has 197 yards and a touchdown against Detroit on his young career, and now that his role has expanded without Jennings occupying touches, the Lions must be careful not to let the speedster get loose and dominate the game.
Packers' Defensive Difference Maker: Morgan Burnett, S. Burnett is coming back from injury this weekend, and could play against Detroit. That alone would make Green Bay's defense tougher, as the loss of a hard-hitting safety who's a major play maker isn't easy to compensate for. Detroit fans know about that, as they've seen Louis Delmas sidelined. Over the middle, Burnett could make a big difference shutting down Reggie Bush and company, and his impact could be felt there the most. Don't underestimate his tackling ability against a shifty group of Lions.
Packers' Major Problem: Turnovers and Takeaways. Green Bay, despite the fact that they have a fantastic run defense and good overall numbers, has struggled with turnover margin this season. The offense has given the ball up seven times, while the defense has only forced five turnovers. That adds up to a -2, which isn't good enough to get the job done in big games against tough opponents. The Lions, by contrast, have a +7 margin, good for top three in the league. In order to win, Green Bay will have to find a way to force some turnovers without giving the ball back to the Lions themselves.
Packers' Major Strength: Quarterback Play. With a talent like Rodgers, a team like Green Bay is never out of a game, division or playoff race. His presence alone makes the Packers a threatening team, despite anything that's gone on with the running game or receiver departures. Worse for Detroit, Rodgers has been a Lions tormentor in his career, going 8-1 with 18 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The fact that Green Bay has a savvy, winning quarterback could help them against a Lions' team which has had its share of mental and physical meltdowns in the past.
Intangibles: The Streak. Everyone knows about it. The Lions haven't won in Wisconsin for 22 straight seasons. Mentally, this cloud follows Detroit around during every trip to Lambeau Field and manifests itself in games, and questions will linger about why the Lions haven't been able to get the job done until they finally do. That, in itself, helps the Packers tremendously on their home field, and the Lions will have to rise above talk of the streak in order to win.
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