Charles “The Prodigy” Richey is an on-air host and producer for chicagolandsportsradio.com, he writes on the NFC North for WARR
Does this sound familiar? As the Detroit Lions prepare to travel up to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, they’re also looking desperately to turn their season around.
Just last Sunday night at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Lions gave up what would have been a showcase win in prime time that would have also kept them at eye level with the Packers in the NFC North race.
Detroit made three trips to the Red Zone and were only able to come away with nine points from those drives and 15 overall. Pittsburgh didn’t do too much better but they had Juju Smith-Schuster and thus an explosive playmaker who broke the game open with a great play that just eluded the Lions all night.
With a Monday Night showdown and a Aaron Rodgers-less Pack team as vulnerable as they have been in a long time in front of them, the Lions need to make themselves better able to exploit scoring chances.
“Against a team like that, unless you score touchdowns, it’s very difficult to beat them kicking field goals all day,” said coach Jim Caldwell following the Pittsburgh game.
This has been a problem all year for Detroit, currently ranked 27th in the NFL in Red Zone Scoring percentage according to Team Rankings Sports Picks, yet they carry a more respectable 19th overall ranking in Total Offensive Yards per game.
One would think how much more heat is Detroit franchise quarterback Matt Stafford going to take now that his franchise is on tab for his five-year $135 million extension and he still can’t manage to get meaningful scores to put the team over in non-division games, let alone being unable to secure success in a division where catastrophic injuries and mismanagement touch each team at some point.
As for the Packers, they are in no other position but to stand with their last QB standing — Brett Hundley — until hero Rodgers can find a way to return from his injured collarbone.
Under coach Mike McCarthy, Green Bay is 2-5-1 without Rodgers, who spoke to the media this week for the first time since breaking his collarbone against the Vikings three weeks ago. Mr. R-E-L-A-X finds himself in a position where he has to temper Packer fans expectations and somewhat get them all off the ledge.
“The only reason to come back would be that I’m healed completely,” Rodgers said.
“If that doesn’t happen in eight weeks, there’s not even a conversation. I would just temper expectations because as much as I would love to get back out there this year, if it’s not healed, then there’s no conversation. If it is healed, then there’s a conversation and we’ll go from there. But that’s kind of the outlook at this point.”
The keys for these two teams, and in particular with Hundley and the Packers, are simple: throw complete short and slant routes, use his athleticism outside the pocket like what he did against New Orleans two weeks ago and take what the defense gives him. Beyond that Green Bay needs the ground game to get moving, they are ranked 23rd in the league in rushing and going up against a good Detroit run defense that ranks third.
It’s going to be difficult without their star quarterback under center, but it seems makeable. There’s no reason for Green Bay not to be favored going into Monday night.
Bye, Bye Vikings
With their turn to bye up this week the Minnesota Vikings have a chance to scout both Detroit and Green Bay as they slug it out to have the chance to inch half a game closer to first place.
Not much to speak about on their end, they’re as stable right now as stable can be in the NFC North this season. Following Sunday the Vikes will begin to turn their attention to the Washington football team, who they will see in the nation’s capital next week.
Follow Charles at his personal blog and on Twitter @ProdigyRichey; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio