By Shawn Lealos
In a rare occurrence, the Green Bay Packers will make its second consecutive appearance on Thursday Night Football this week as they battle their divisional rival Detroit Lions. Last week, on Thanksgiving night, the Packers lost to their NFC North rival Chicago Bears to lose their divisional lead and fall to 7-4 on the season. They now have to stop the surging Detroit Lions, who have won three in a row and look for more this Thursday night.
Uncertainty in the Locker Room
The Green Bay Packers are 7-4 and in second place in the NFC North. They have as good a chance as anyone to make the playoffs and are talented enough to make it to the Super Bowl in the NFC. However, there are a lot of rumors of turbulence in the locker room of the Packers. The team’s star quarterback Aaron Rodgers openly criticized the team’s preparation for games leading to their 1-4 record over the last five games. A player’s only meeting was rumored but Rodgers denied it, and now talk is surrounding Mike McCarthy’s job security. Green Bay is still a good team, but they have to beat Detroit this week.
A New Look Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions aren’t pushovers anymore, this team looks very different. After starting the season with a 1-6 record, head coach Jim Caldwell finally pulled the trigger and changed offensive coordinators. Since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the offensive coordinator, the Lions are 3-1, beating the Green Bay Packers to start a three-game winning streak. Calvin Johnson was almost invisible through the first half of the season. He has suddenly come to life since then.
Matthew Stafford To Calvin Johnson
The biggest combination that helped the Lions win games over the last few seasons is Matthew Stafford throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson. In the last four games, since Cooter took over as the offensive coordinator, Stafford threw the ball Johnson’s way 42 times, for 24 completions and 347 yards. Johnson caught three touchdowns in the win over Philadelphia on Thanksgiving. In the team’s other win this season, Johnson caught six passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
Eddie Lacy Is Back
Eddie Lacy was invisible through the first part of the season. After suffering through injuries, including a hurt ankle, Lacy finally looks like he is back to full strength. In the last two games, Lacy has run for 205 yards and caught five passes for 40 more yards. Before those games, Lacy had a total of 308 yards through eight games. While the Packers are 1-1 in the two games that Lacy has come back to life, he is the key to getting this offense balanced and back on the right track again.
This will probably turn into an offensive shootout between Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. The defenses are why the teams are losing. Detroit ranks 19th in the NFL and Green Bay sits below them in 22nd place in total defense. The Lions rank next to last in turnover ratio at negative nine, and that is because they only have 12 turnovers on the year while Stafford has thrown 13 interceptions and the team has fumbled the ball eight times. Green Bay is better because they only have eight giveaways, but their defense has only forced 14 turnovers, 21st in the NFL. With little defensive pressure, this game will be all about who scores the most points.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.