The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers will square off in an important NFC North matchup on Sunday. The Week 5 matchup has the two teams switching their expected roles, as the Lions are 3-1 and first in the division coming off a solid win over the Chicago Bears. Meanwhile, the Packers are 1-2 with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.
Green Bay is coming off a bye week and are third in the NFC North, but a loss could put them in last with the Minnesota Vikings, a team which has been a big disappointment this season. Last season, the Packers handled the Lions both time the two teams faced off, winning 24-20 in Detroit and 27-20 in Green Bay.
But this is a different season and things are trending in another direction. Let's take a look at both teams below:
Meet the Packers
As noted, the Packers are coming off a bye week which can be considered "much needed." Green Bay lost their season opener to the San Francisco 49ers, which was expected, and rebounded with a solid win over the Washington Redskins. But few saw the Bengals winning the Week 3 matchup, and what a matchup it was.
Green Bay trailed by two touchdowns in that game, and then led by 16 points before the Bengals scored three touchdowns to take the 34-30 victory. The defense, particularly the secondary, struggled late, and Aaron Rodgers had an uncharacteristically bad day throwing the football.
The Packers feel like they still have a good product on the field, and when Rodgers is your quarterback, you can't really argue. But if they don't fix significant issues on the defense, then someone like Matthew Stafford -- who probably feels getting fewer than 50 pass attempts per game is an alarming lack of touches -- will have a field day.
Meet the Lions
Detroit, a team with a head coach who entered this season on the hot seat after a 4-12 record in 2012, leads the NFC North after a solid win over the aforementioned Bears. As usual, the Lions are winning due to their strong offense, as they out-gunned the Bears, 40-32.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has once again had to deal with a lagging run game for various reasons, including injuries. He's already attempted 156 passes, but he's completing a respectable 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards with seven touchdowns against just three interceptions. He's one of the most productive passers in the league, and if Detroit wants to win, they have to attack Green Bay's secondary early and often.
Fortunately, the Lions have also done a superb job of keeping Stafford clean in the pocket this season. They'll face a tough Green Bay pass rush, which is where this game will be fought. If Stafford's line will hold up, then he can make big things happen and win it on the road.
Local Takes: Packers
Erik Balkmen of Acme Packing Company says that Green Bay will have their hands full with Detroit's pass rush, but he's confident the Packers know how to deal with it:
I fully expect Rodgers to attack Detroit's below average secondary early and often. Job one for the Packers' O-line will be to give Rodgers enough time to pick the defense apart and not get blasted by the Lions D-line and/or any blitzers in the meantime. I have no doubt that with the emergence of Johnathan Franklin in Week 3, we'll see more than a couple screen passes to Franklin and Lacy. Head coach Mike McCarthy knows how to soften up a pass rush, and Green Bay has the talent to execute those screens.
Local Takes: Lions
Sean Yuille of Pride of Detroit thinks this game has serious divisional implications, more for the Packers than the Lions:
The Packers are in the unusual position of being in third place in the NFC North. A loss on Sunday would drop them into a tie for last place with the Minnesota Vikings, and a 1-3 start certainly would not go over well in Green Bay. On the flip side, a win over the Lions could help the Packers gets their season back on track coming out of their bye week. A lot could be riding on Sunday's game for the Packers.
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All five of SB Nation's experts -- Ryan Van Bibber, Joel Thorman, Jason Chilton, Stephen White and David Fucillo -- believe that the Packers will win, as noted in the Week 5 picks.
The Packers opened as 7-point favorites for the matchup, and the line has narrowly increased in their favor throughout the week, according to OddsShark. They could be had as 7.5-point favorites mid-week.