To put it nicely, Mike McCarthy has flat-out owned NFC North opponents since taking over as Packers Head Coach in 2006. The offensive guru has only lost to the Lions once (a 7-3 loss in Detroit that saw Aaron Rodgers go down in the first half) and has won six straight against the Bears. In a highly competitive NFC North division, the Packers need that trend to continue in 2013, starting on Sunday as the division-leading Lions come to town.
This year, the Packers don’t have the luxury of a ‘gimme opponent’, which tends to exist in most divisions around the league – the Browns, Raiders and Cardinals being classic examples. The Lions have traditionally played that role in the NFC North but have clearly rebounded from their four-win season a year ago, now sitting atop the NFC North. The Packers get the Lions at home two weeks after suffering a mistake-heavy loss to the Bengals on the road.
It was the Lions that presented arguably the most subtle threat of any NFC North foe coming into the season. However, a fierce Detroit D-line that has given Rodgers trouble in the past managed to force four Jay Cutler turnovers on Sunday. The Packers’ highly scrutinized O-line will be a focus area ahead of Sunday’s meeting with the Lions as the Bryan Bulaga-less unit prepare for one of the league’s most physical units, led by Ndamukong Suh.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers get nothing new in going up against a premier running back. He’s not Matt Forte or Adrian Peterson but the electrifying Reggie Bush may post the greatest versatility of any NFC North back. The Packers must respect Bush’s ability as a receiver out of the backfield while, at the same time, accounting for Calvin Johnson downfield. With a banged up secondary, Green Bay will rely on its notoriously inconsistent pass rush to create havoc for Matthew Stafford.
Just as I’ve been saying since the Packers’ Week 3 choke in Cincinnati, it’s still very early in the season and the McCarthy-led Packers tend to get off to slow starts. That said, a loss to Detroit on Sunday would be damaging in that divisional record will be of utter importance down the stretch, with all four NFC North teams potentially in the playoff mix come December. If No.12 performs the way he normally does versus Detroit, there is no reason why the Packers can’t be back in the equation this time next week.