Five things to watch: Lions at Packers

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News

The Lions are the one team in the NFL that has only played four games.

They are also one of two that have not yet played a divisional game, joining Atlanta there.

Packers running back Aaron Jones has a pair of 100-yard rushing games this season.

And for as positive as fans have been about this team since losing to Kansas City 15 days ago, the Lions have cumulatively outscored opponents by just two points this season.

Remarkably, they are one of four teams in the NFL with a point differential of two points or less. The others run the gamut of a Super Bowl contender in the Los Angeles Rams (minus-1), a last-place team like Denver (dead even), and a team somewhere between in Indianapolis (minus-2).

Where exactly do the Lions fall on that chart? We’ll find out much more on Monday night.

Here are five things to watch in Monday’s marquee matchup (8:15 p.m., ESPN, WJR 760):

1. Smart money?

The spread on this game opened as Green Bay by 6, but has been bet down all the way to 3.5 points late Sunday night, according to The Action Network.

That’s with 68 percent of public money being placed on the Packers. That means the big professional bettors are going with the Lions.

These folks usually know something.

2. 40K club

With a 352-yard outing, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford would become the fastest player to throw for 40,000 yards in his career. He’s got a five-game cushion to make that happen, but don’t bet on it Monday.

Stafford has thrown for 352 or more yards once in four games this season, and did not hit that mark at all last year.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is closing in on 40,000 career passing yards.

3. Aaron & Aaron

Aaron Rodgers has terrorized Lions fans, going 13-5 against Detroit in his career. But while he has not thrown for 250 yards in any of Green Bay’s four wins, running back Aaron Jones often has picked up the slack. It’s been feast or famine on the ground for the third-year back, as Jones have been over 100 yards twice, but under 40 the other three games.

4. Bye boys

The Lions played one of their best games of the season last year on the road after the bye week, overwhelming Miami 32-21 in October. Detroit now has won six of its last seven games off a bye week, including the five straight wins to open that stretch under Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell. Matt Patricia is 1-0 in his career as a head coach with a week to prepare within the season. Can he continue the Lions winning tradition after some time off?

5. The Lambeau Lions?

Remember when the Lions couldn’t win at Lambeau Field? Detroit lost in 24 straight trips to Wisconsin until a wild 2015 game where Calvin Johnson dropped an onside kick attempt, but Mason Crosby shanked a potential game-winning 52-yard field-goal attempt. The Lions now have won three out of four in Lambeau and five out of seven in the series. This is the longest-running continuous rivalry in the NFL, and maybe a new chapter is afoot, as Green Bay has not beaten the Lions since becoming the first NFL team to amass 100 wins against another franchise with its 2016 home win.

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.