Lions-Packers Key Matchups: Detroit Must Keep Aaron Rodgers Human

Aaron Rodgers

Getty Aaron Rodgers fires a pass against the Lions in 2020.

The Detroit Lions are preparing for a matchup against the Green Bay Packers that will be under the lights of Monday Night Football, and the chance exists for the team to score a big win that would get them healthy in the NFC North race.

Though it might seem inconceivable to some, the Lions are right in the thick of the divisional race in spite of an early loss and haven’t yet lost any ground even in spite of the Week 1 defeat. Every team is 0-1, so that sets up a key grudge match for Detroit and Green Bay in which the winner could emerge with plenty of good feelings for the future even in spite of an average start.

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What matchups will be the biggest in determining this Week 2 contest? Here’s a look at the most important battles to note this week.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Detroit’s Defensive Backfield

Rodgers wasn’t great in his first game in 2021, tossing 2 interceptions and only throwing for 133 yards. He never got comfortable, and the Saints’ defense was a major reason why. They blanketed the wideouts and only allowed Davante Adams to get loose for 56 yards. The Lions were hit with plenty of big plays against San Francisco, and lost top cornerback Jeff Okudah to a season-ending Achilles injury. Their secondary is young and untested, even if the group isn’t lacking for any confidence ahead of the matchup. The fact of the matter is, Rodgers has beaten up the Lions in his career to a tune of a 17-5 record and a 106.2 career passer rating. The Lions secondary has to find a way to win some battles and generate some turnovers if the team wants a chance at victory. This might be the most significant matchup to watch all night.

Detroit’s Offensive Line vs. Green Bay’s Defensive Line

Early this season, it looks as if the Lions are going to be boosted throughout with the solid performance of their offensive line. Early on, the group did some damage against San Francisco in Week 1, blowing open gaping holes in order to generate some solid numbers for Detroit’s ground game. All of this happened without Taylor Decker and with a rookie in Penei Sewell as well as a journeyman backup in Matt Nelson. The Lions need to control the line of scrimmage this week not only to help their running game, but keep Jared Goff clean as well. The Saints exposed some weaknesses with the Packers’ front and secondary, but that will only matter if the Lions set the tone with physicality right off the bat from their line. Za’Darius Smith will be out, so that puts pressure on others to step up for Green Bay like Rashan Gary.

T.J. Hockenson vs. Packers’ Secondary

Given the Lions figure to be down Tyrell Williams due to concussion, that will put a premium on their other weapons stepping up and making plays in the passing game. Detroit’s wideouts are untested for the most part, so that means a security blanket like Hockenson could come in handy again. The tight end went off for 97 yards and 1 touchdown during the first game of the season, so seeing how the Packers deal with him will be key. If he is blanketed, that will put pressure on other weapons at wideout to step up and have bigger games. Detroit doesn’t have great depth at wideout now, so Hockenson might be their biggest chance at an elite receiver in this game.

Jamaal Williams vs. Packers’ Defense

While he might not admit it publicly, Williams will likely be searching for revenge when he takes on the Packers for the first time as an opponent this time around. Williams is going to be running hard and try to pack a punch every time he touches the ball. He can get going in the screen game and on the ground as well, and D’Andre Swift will figure in big as well in terms of a player who can make the Packers pay. There’s always something to be said about a former player coming back after being released, though. Williams can make life miserable on his old defense this week, so it will be interesting to see if he can get that done.

Mason Crosby vs. Austin Seibert

A battle between kickers isn’t the sexiest competition to highlight week in and week out, but the Lions got a mixed bag from Seibert in Week 1 considering his miss from 52 yards and his make from 49 yards. Typically, Crosby is rock solid save for a miserable performance in Detroit a few years back. He won the game with a kick on Monday Night Football in 2019, so he is well-versed in coming up big on this stage. Seibert needs to continue to prove himself, and in a close game outdoors, can he be the difference? It could very well be a close game, so the kickers could be important once more this week. The Lions lost kicker Zane Gonzalez off their practice squad this week, so Seibert is going it alone in Detroit now.

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