Opposite Sideline: Lions a different team

Aaron Nagler
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The lowdown on the Green Bay Packers' next opponent from a beat writer who covers the team.

The Green Bay Packers head to Detroit to take on a Lions team that is coming off two tough losses. That said, the NFC North crown is on the line and the Lions have played well against the Packers the last few times they've played them in their building.

We caught up with Dave Birkett, who covers the Lions for the Detroit Free Press, and got his thoughts on Sunday night's matchup. You can find his answers to our questions in the video above and more in the text below.

1. How has Matthew Stafford adjusted to the finger injury?

"Stafford hasn't looked quite like the same quarterback he was when he was leading the Lions to comeback win after comeback win, but it isn't entirely the fault of his finger. The Lions haven't been able to run the ball consistently since Week 2 and that's contributed to problems they have getting open on the outside and in pass protection up front. Stafford is still the best thing this offense has going for it, but he's got five turnovers in the 11 quarters since he injured his finger, in part because he's trying to do too much. He needs to get back to making good decisions and trusting that he'll get some help from his supporting cast this week."

2. Is Zach Zenner a legit answer at running back for the Lions? 

"Kind of. Zach Zenner is the Lions' best option at running back right now, and he proved as much in the first half of (Monday's) loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He ran for a career-high in that game, then disappeared from the game plan in the second half. What Zenner does well is get the yards he's supposed to. He's not as much of a big-play threat as Dwayne Washington, but he'll hit the right hole and make the right blitz pick-up and do things to keep the Lions on schedule offensively. The Lions will look to address the running back position next year I'm sure, but for now their best bet is to roll with Zenner in the backfield."

3. Is Jim Caldwell's job really in jeopardy? Or is that just a media creation?

"If Jim Caldwell's job isn't in jeopardy with a loss Sunday, then Lions brass should come out and say so. They've certainly had opportunities, and it would be the right thing to do given how this team have overachieved this year. But the fact of the matter is that while Caldwell and his staff deserve plenty of credit for 9-6 and digging the team out of a 1-3 start, they also would be partly to blame for an 0-3 finish and missing the playoffs for the second straight year. Ordinarily, especially given the Lions' history, that wouldn't be enough to make a change. But the wild card in all this is first-year general manager Bob Quinn, who didn't hire Caldwell but decided to keep him last January and who knows a couple of the hottest coaching candidates on the market this year (the Patriots duo of Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia) well."

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