Lions vs. Packers preview: No Rodgers but Green Bay has weapons
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Monday’s Lions-Packers game at Ford Field (8:30 p.m. ESPN/760 WJR).
PACKERS TO WATCH
Aaron Jones, RB: The rookie has burst onto the scene since getting his shot. In four games, Jones has already rushed for at least 125 yards twice and found the end zone three times while averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry. He’s also shown his game-breaking ability with a 46-yard touchdown run against the Saints two weeks ago.
Jordy Nelson, WR: The Pro Bowler’s numbers are down compared to his past three seasons played, but he still makes a formidable 1-2 combo with fellow receiver Davante Adams. Despite averaging just 3.7 receptions and 43.3 yards per game, Nelson remains the Green Bay’s top scoring threat with a team-high six touchdowns. He has recorded at least five catches and 82 yards in three of the teams’ past six meetings, including a 101-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 3 last season.
Brett Hundley, QB: The third-year pro hasn’t been very effective and efficient in his two outings since taking over for the injured Aaron Rodgers. Hundley has completed just 52.5 percent of his passes (31-for-59) for 244 yards and a touchdown, but also has been picked off four times and fumbled twice. However, he has the ability to run when a play breaks down as evidenced by his 11.8 yards-per-carry average.
■ Punch it in: The Lions need to do a better job capitalizing on their scoring chances. They floundered in the red zone last week and failed to score a touchdown in five trips, including twice inside the 5-yard line, and it cost them. Detroit ranks near the bottom of the league in bottom red-zone efficiency (45 percent, tied 25th) and goal-to-go percentage (54.55 percent, tied 27th), while the Packers lead the league in red-zone efficiency (73.9 percent).
■ Feel the rush: Where’s the pressure gone? The Lions have mustered just three sacks and nine total quarterback hits during their current three-game skid, but have been shutout in the sack department each of the last two games. Detroit’s front seven needs to find a way to rattle Brett Hundley and prevent him from getting into any sort of a rhythm.
■ Weak point: The Lions have cracked 100 yards rushing just once his season but Ameer Abdullah should have plenty of opportunities against the Packers’ run defense, which ranks among one of the league’s worst. Green Bay has allowed at least 100 yards on the ground each of the past six games and has given up a league-high nine runs of 20-plus yards.
■ Stay in the race: Detroit and Green Bay are fighting for more than just relevancy in this encounter. With Minnesota sitting atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record, a fourth straight loss would put the Lions in an even deeper hole and at risk of falling out of contention with eight weeks to go.
FACTS AND FIGURES
■ Matthew Stafford set a record for most career games with 350-plus passing yards in a player’s first nine seasons with 19, passing Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino’s previous mark of 18.
■ Green Bay has scored 27 points the last two games after averaging 27 points the first five games.
■ The Lions have won once in their past 26 trips to Lambeau Field.
■ Since 2013, the Packers are 2-5-1 in games Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played.
■ Matt Prater joined Jason Hanson as the only kickers in franchise history to make five field goals in a game at least twice and connect on at least 20 field goals of 50-plus yards.
■ The Packers lead the league with 34 points on opening drives and are plus-21 in first-quarter scoring at home this season, which is tied for the best margin.
■ This is the ninth time the teams have faced in prime time and third time on Monday Night Football.