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NFL Detroit LionsGreen Bay Packers

Packers vs. Lions NFL Week 14 Preview

Andrew Weber – USA TODAY Sports

I could go on and on about my distaste for the Detroit Lions. In fact, I did so the last time they played the Green Bay Packers, just three weeks ago.

Since then, Ndamukong Suh had another Thanksgiving Day incident when he kicked Houston Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub in the crotch and then played his well-worn “I don’t know what you’re talking about even though everyone saw it” game. In a sitdown with Merril Hoge, Suh bemoaned his “unfair” reputation as a dirty player. Suh seems to be lost in some sort of alternate reality where he thinks that he doesn’t have direct control over his own reputation and continues to wash his hands of any sort of responsibility for that reputation.

Additionally, the Lions have another problem player in wide receiver Titus Young. Young was sent to the injured reserve this week and that seems to have to do less with his knee injury than his behavior. Young’s been suspended twice this season for conduct detrimental to the team and the Lions seem to have little interest in dealing with him anymore.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Young has not been showing up to practice and meetings on time. There was a shocking report that Young intentionally lined up in the wrong position multiple times in the Lions’ loss to the Packers. When asked if Young will likely have surgery on his knee, head coach Jim Schwartz answered, “Yes, unless he doesn’t show up for it.” Oh snap.

Getting to the X’s and O’s, this is a very winnable game for Green Bay. Offensively, Detroit has a weak run game that has failed to give any relief to their overworked passing game. They had already sustained the loss of wide receiver Nate Burleson for the season and now Young’s done for the year.

For the Lions offense, however, it really doesn’t matter how many injuries you have, as long as Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are on the field. Johnson leads the league with 1,428 receiving yards (300 more than second-place Brandon Marshall) and has a good shot at breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards. No matter how much the rest of the team disappoints, the Lions always have a chance because of Stafford and Johnson.

For the Packers, the most interesting thing will be how well former Green Bay running back Ryan Grant, who was re-signed this week, fits into the offense. Though he will likely be on a snap count in his first game back, Green Bay will be looking to see if he can provide the spark that has been missing in the running game.

Green Bay will most likely be without right tackle T.J. Lang (ankle) and receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring). Cornerback Sam Shields appears to be ready to return from a nagging shin/ankle injury that has sidelined him for the last six games. Safety Charles Woodson was a limited participant in practice this week and, while Clay Matthews continues to improve, I doubt the Packers will test his hamstring in this week’s game.

The Lions are 4-8 with a tough final four games remaining – realistically, they’re out of the hunt. I don’t expect, however, that that will change their effort level. To be honest, I’m worried that the Lions have nothing left to lose. I think they will try to take out Green Bay players with unnecessarily rough and/or illegal plays. It especially makes me nervous going against this Lions team with an offensive line that is still getting comfortable with each other.

Undrafted rookie Don Barclay looks to make his first start at right tackle for Lang. Barclay played well in his first real action last week but will have quite a challenge going against Detroit’s Cliff Avril. The Packers will have to continue to keep back extra blockers to give the line some help. I can’t help but worry for Aaron Rodgers’ safety behind a line that’s been up and down even when healthy.

Green Bay has a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday Night Football after the stinker they laid down two weeks ago against the New York Giants. The biggest challenge could be mental – not looking forward to next week’s showdown with the Chicago Bears. The Packers will have to be mentally focused and sharp to keep their minds on the game in front of them.