The Green Bay Packers have not lost a game against their NFC division rivals under coach Matt LaFleur. After a 43-34 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week One, the Packers will look to keep that trend alive in Week Two as they face the Detroit Lions. For their part, the Lions are coming off of an epic late game collapse against the Chicago Bears. Despite the loss, this Lions team can give the Packers some trouble. In order to come away with the victory, the Packers must do these three things:
Key to Victory #1- Contain Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson was the bane of the Packers’ existence for years during his time as a Viking. In fact, Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards against the Packers than he does against any other team (1,648 yards in 14 games, roughly 118 yards per game). After two productive years with the Washington Football Team, Peterson returned to the NFC North to play for the Lions.
In the Lions’ Week One loss, Peterson showed he still has what it takes to be a force in the NFL. While he was kept out of the end zone, he still rushed for 93 yards on 14 attempts. This Packers’ defense faced another tough running back in Week One, holding Dalvin Cook to just 50 yards on 12 attempts. The keys to this success, though, were winning the time-of-possession battle and getting an early lead. By keeping the Vikings’ offense off the field, Cook was limited in the number of carries he could get. In addition, getting an early lead meant the Vikings had to resort to a pass-first offense, which also limited Cook’s production (he had one reception for -2 yards).
The Packers have had a lot of recent struggles stopping the run on defense. Of course, improvements must be made on this front. However, the offense can help limit Peterson and the Lions’ offense by keeping them off the field with time-consuming drives that result in points.
Key to Victory #2- Protect Twelve
This is an obvious one; every team wants to protect their quarterback. However, after a 2019 season that many deemed a “down” year for Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ quarterback had a vintage performance in Week One. Rodgers decimated the Vikings’ defense to the tune of 364 yards and four touchdowns while completing 72.2% of his passes. During the past two season, Rodgers was sacked a combined 85 times. Last week, he was sacked exactly zero times.
While Rodgers has the ability to make amazing throws on the move, he is most dangerous when he is able to settle into the pocket. The protection of Rodgers is mainly the job of the offensive line, which took some hits in Week One. Lane Taylor is out of the year with a knee injury. For the Packers to win, the rest of the line needs to step up and fill the void. This can be accomplished with the help of the wide receivers, who were able to get open and create separation that they had struggled to do in seasons past. When they create even a small amount of space, Rodgers is able to get the ball to them instead of holding on too long.
Key to Victory #3- Win the Special Teams’ Battle
The Packers were a NFC-best 13-3 last season. However, it did not look like the team would achieve that good of a record until later in the season. Many early wins came in spite of a historically bad special teams unit. Up until the signing of Tyler Ervin, the Packers looked to be the first team ever with negative net return yards.
After Ervin was signed, he immediately turned the return game around and made the Packers a much more complete team. Last week, Ervin returned one kick for 18 yards and one punt for zero yards. On the other side, the Vikings’ K.J. Osborn returned two kicks for 64 yards. The Packers only punted once, and that kick was not returned.
The Lions have played the Packers very well during the past two seasons. Therefore, we may expect more punts than in Week One. It is imperative that the Packers limit the Lions to less-than-ideal field position. In addition, it is imperative that Ervin continues to build of his success from last season and puts the Packers in the best position for scoring drives.