Justin Rogers and John Niyo discuss the Detroit Lions' upcoming matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
When Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a knee injury in the first half of Week 1 against Chicago, it looked like the NFC North could again be up for grabs.
Rodgers missed most of last season with an injury, opening the door for Minnesota to win the division that Green Bay had conquered for five of the previous six seasons.
Rodgers returned against Chicago, however, leading the Packers to a comeback win, serving notice that he’s still the King of the North.
The future Hall of Famer leads Green Bay on Sunday into Ford Field, where he is 6-2 all-time.
Here are five things to watch in that one (1 p.m., FOX, WJR 760):
1. Rookies ready
First-round pick Frank Ragnow has helped solidify the Lions offensive line for second-round pick Kerryon Johnson, who has proved more than capable as the Lions best running back.
Now it could be time for third-round pick Tracy Walker to give the Lions a boost at safety with all the injuries at the position.
That is, if Walker can overcome his own ankle injury that he's had this week.
2. Going to Graham
After last week’s win against Buffalo, Rodgers said the Packers need to find ways to get tight end Jimmy Graham more involved in the offense.
The 31-year-old is averaging just four catches a game in his first season in Green Bay, but could find his way Sunday against a Lions defense hit with injuries in the secondary and continued coverage struggles at linebacker.
3. Breakout game?
Rodgers never has really had a truly memorable running back by his side in Green Bay, but has turned players like Ryan Grant and Eddie Lacy into dangerous weapons in the run and pass games.
Aaron Jones could be next. The numbers haven’t been huge for the second-year back out of UTEP since returning from a two-game suspension to open the season, but his Pro Football Focus rush grade is third in the league and the tape is impressive.
No better way to break out in a big way than against the Lions defense.
4. Stop slow starts
If the Lions always seem like they are playing from behind, it’s because they are. Detroit trailed at halftime in each of the three losses this season and led in its one win.
Slow starts are nothing new, as the Lions scored only five of their 46 touchdowns (10.9 percent) last season in the first quarter.
Since 2010, the Lions have scored 55 of their 308 touchdowns (17.9 percent) in the opening stanza.
That likely won’t cut the cheese on Sunday.
5. January plans?
While 1-3 isn’t a death sentence for your playoff hopes — nearly 15 percent of 1-3 teams made the playoffs since the current playoff format began in 1990 — 1-4 heading into the bye week is a different story.
A playoff turnaround can still be made, as Miami did two seasons ago, but the Lions' sense of desperation is high. Just like in Week 3 against New England, the Lions need a win at home against one of the all-time best quarterbacks.
Can the Lions turn in another solid performance Sunday to keep fans interested for the long haul, or will visiting Green Bay fans drown out the noise of the home faithful while the Packers effectively sink the Lions season?
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.