Lions vs. Packers scouting report: Matchups, trends, players to watch

Justin Rogers Julie Walker
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Here's a scouting report ahead of the Detroit Lions' Week 17 matchup with the Green Bay Packers. 

Za'Darius Smith

Key matchups

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on offense

The Packers went on a spending spree in free agency this past offseason, making major upgrades to the team's defense. The most expensive addition was edge rusher Za'Darius Smith, but he's proven to be worth every penny of his four-year, $66 million contract. Through 15 games, he's racked up a career-high 13.5 sacks, while generating 87 total pressures, second in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Smith doesn't line up on one side, so slowing him down will fall on both of Detroit's offensive tackles. In the first matchup between the teams this season, the Green Bay defender disrupted the pocket seven times, recording 1.0 sack. 

More: Lions mailbag, Part 1: What if Joe Burrow fell to Detroit?

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on defense

Ask Darius Slay his toughest coverage assignments and he won't get far down his list before mentioning Davante Adams, specifically referencing the Packers receiver's release off the line of scrimmage. 

Adams sets up his entire route through his first couple steps, often generating the separation he needs almost immediately. Despite missing four games due to injury, including the earlier matchup with Detroit, he's within striking distance of a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. And with 29 targets the past two weeks, netting 96 yards is well within reach. 

The last time Slay and Adams squared off, in Week 5 last year, the Packers wideout caught seven passes on nine targets with Slay in coverage, gaining 99 yards and scoring an easy touchdown. 

Kenny Clark

Underrated opponent

Defensive tackle Kenny Clark

The fact Clark hasn't earned a Pro Bowl selection the past two seasons seems wrong. The well-rounded, powerful defender has tallied 6.0 sacks each of the past two years and he's over 60 total pressures his season. 

Statistical Trends

► Green Bay:  The Packers have been starting fast all season, ranking third in first-quarter scoring with 7.2 points per game. And they've picked up the pace slightly in recent weeks with 8.0 points per opening frame the past three games. 

The Packers have also been finishing off opponents with a strong ground game. In their past three, they've churned out an average of 152.7 rushing yards, the fourth-most in the league during that stretch. 

More: Lions mailbag, Part 2: Draft trades, win-now costs, no fire for Wood

► Detroit: The story of Detroit's season has been the team's inability to finish games. It's a collective failure, but the defense has been particularly bad, allowing 9.1 points per fourth quarter. Things have been worse in recent weeks as opponents have scored an average of 10.3 points in the fourth quarter the past three games, all losses. 

Players to watch

► Aaron Rodgers, QB: In a season that’s a little below average for a healthy Rodgers, he’s led the Packers to a 12-3 record and a shot at a bye and a home game in the divisional round with a win at Ford Field. Although the Lions must still have a sour taste from their 23-22 loss to the Packers at Lambeau in Week 6, injuries will make it hard for revenge against the future Hall-of-Famer. Rodgers has 24 touchdowns and 3,679 yards on the season with just three interceptions. The Lions don’t beat a healthy Rodgers often, and that should not change this week.

► Aaron Jones, RB: Jones is just 16 rushing yards from 1,000. His total yardage is at 1,415. His 431 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns are a nice addition to his 211 carries for 984 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns – good for being the top rushing scorer in the league. The third-year UTEP product is coming off his biggest game last week when he had 23 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota. He’ll be looking to improve from his previous start against the Lions that yielded just 11 carries for 47 yards, and that should not be hard to do against a depleted Lions squad.

Davante Adams

► Davante Adams, WR: Even after missing four games due to a toe injury suffered in late September, the elite receiver has 904 yards and is the league’s fifth-best in yards-per-game with 82.2. He’s got 76 receptions and four touchdowns and is coming off a pair of 100-plus yard games (103, 116) in the Packers’ last two wins against Minnesota and Chicago. The Packers head into Sunday’s game at Ford Field with a four-game win streak and that momentum should held Adams’ game keep soaring – maybe even enough to allow him and Jones to hit the 1,000-yard mark on Sunday. Adams was out when Detroit played in Green Bay in Week 6, but the Lions have the NFL’s worst pass defense, allowing 282.6 yards per game.

Lions vs. Packers

Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m. Ford Field

TV/radio: Fox/760 AM

Records: Lions 3-11-1, Packers 12-3

Line: Packers by 13