Packers-Lions: 3 things to watch

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Calvin Johnson

Containing Calvin

Last season, the Green Bay Packers had the dubious honor of becoming the first NFL team to surrender 1,000 career receiving yards to Calvin Johnson. That's only natural when you're seeing the league's most prolific receiver twice a year, but it also illustrates how difficult Johnson has been for the Packers to stop. Johnson, who'll turn 29 later this week, is averaging eight catches and 151.5 yards in each of his last four appearances against the Packers. They've used a variety of coverages and cornerbacks to limit Megatron's production, but more often than not, he still finds ways to win. The Packers put Sam Shields on Johnson in last year's 40-10 Thankgiving blowout and limited him to only three catches on seven targets for 46 yards with an interception. When Johnson occasionally slides into the slot, look for veteran Tramon Williams to follow him inside. The Lions' offense tends to go as Johnson goes. In their dominating 35-14 win over the New York Giants two weeks ago, the eighth-year receiver had seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Golden Tate, who signed a five-year, $31 million contract this offseason, has been an upgrade over Nate Burleson as the Lions' No. 2 and a popular target for Matthew Stafford. He has 11 catches for 150 yards in two games.

Suh Me

Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' defensive line gave the Packers a world of problems last November. Might the result have been a little different if Aaron Rodgers would have been on the field? Possibly, but Matt Flynn wasn't given much of a chance in being sacked seven times. Pro Football Focus credited Suh with four quarterback hurries and a sack in the beatdown. It also was the worst game of left tackle David Bakhtiari's young career. He allowed three sacks, including two to Detroit's 2013 first-round pick Ziggy Ansah. Ansah (knee) and Nick Fairley (biceps) are questionable, but whatever combination joins Suh in the interior likely will give rookie center Corey Linsley his biggest test to date. The Packers want to keep the pocket cleaner for Rodgers, who has been sacked seven times in the first two weeks. There were two instances against the Jets when the MVP quarterback held onto the ball too long. It'll be important for the Packers' no-huddle offense to attack the Lions' weakened secondary early and often, and avoid negative yardage plays that ultimately placed them in an insurmountable hole last Thanksgiving.

Refining the run

Eddie Lacy has carried the ball 25 times in the first two games but hasn't broken a run for more than 15 yards at a 3.1-yards-per-carry clip. His job won't get any easier against the Lions, who were one of six NFL teams that limited opposing offenses to less than 100 yards rushing per game last season. It's entirely possible the reduction in the reigning offensive rookie of the year's production could be equated to defenses respecting the Packers' improved ground attack, but it will be key for the Packers to begin gaining traction. Lacy had his worst game of his rookie season on Thanksgiving when he rushed for only 16 yards on 10 carries. After struggling to get touches with the Jets putting so many defenders in the box last week, the Packers likely will want to get him going early. The same goes for top reserve James Starks, who didn't carry the ball last week despite being the Packers' leading rusher in Seattle. "I don't think we've proven anything yet this year in the running game," right guard T.J. Lang said. "You see sometimes where teams will start respecting that a little bit more, they bring an extra guy into the box, whether it's a safety or an extra linebacker, whatever it is. But in my mind, we haven't been as successful as we have liked."

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