Here’s a preview of what to watch for when the Packers host the Detroit Lions for a noon kickoff Sunday.
1. Aaron Rodgers needs to play better. A lot will be made this week of the Packers' continued struggles on offense, and there are lots of things this team needs to work on when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. But nothing will jump-start Mike McCarthy’s offense quicker than his quarterback playing better.
Rodgers left clean pockets, made several errant throws, missed open receivers and finally threw away the game on a bad interception at the end of the game in Minneapolis on Sunday night. Was his offensive line perfect? Were his receivers always open? Did his playcaller take some pressure off him by running the football? No. On all counts. But if Rodgers just plays a fundamentally sound game, the Packers most likely beat the Vikings, despite all those issues.
McCarthy has developed this Packers offense around Rodgers and his abilities because he is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. It’s time for him to start playing like it again and not like a timid 1st- or 2nd-year starter.
2. Reestablishing the Lambeau advantage, starting with Sunday’s game against the Lions.
The Lions came into Lambeau Field last year and did the unthinkable, beating the Packers in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991. It wasn’t just the Lions who made themselves feel at home at Lambeau last year, either. All three divisional opponents notched victories on the field once thought to be a fortress for the Packers, where their ability to emerge victorious was taken for granted.
The Packers are coming off a month's worth of traveling for their final two preseason game and first two regular-season games. They now get a game at home, prior to their Week 4 bye, and then three more games at Lambeau. This stretch gives them a chance to reclaim their dominance not only over the Lions but also over NFC opponents such as the Giants and Cowboys, as well as divisional rival Chicago.
But it all starts Sunday against Detroit.
3. Can the Packers' secondary get back on track against Detroit’s talented pass catchers?
All summer, Green Bay looked to have the makings of one of the best, most talented secondaries in the league. Then came games against the Jaguars and Vikings and some of the shine has started to come off the group.
Obviously, the loss of Sam Shields plays a big part here. One would think he would have drawn Stefon Diggs in coverage Sunday night more than a few times. Still, Damarious Randall looked very good in Week 1 against a premier talent in Allen Robinson, only to fall apart against Diggs.
Now, Randall and company will be faced with the likes of Marvin Jones and Golden Tate (who is struggling himself through Detroit’s first two games). The Packers have the talent to go toe-to-toe with Detroit’s passing attack. It’s up to cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. to get his guys playing up to their potential, because right now they aren’t.