The Green Bay Packers have had a hard time facing physical opponents under head coach Matt LaFleur. It’s not a coincidence that teams like the San Francisco 49ers, for example, have taken advantage of the matchup. This is particularly important this week, because that’s what head coach Dan Campbell has established in Detroit, and the Lions have won four consecutive games against the Packers.
The energy and physicality are now part of the Lions culture. Besides being a competent and smart team, especially the offense under coordinator Ben Johnson, Detroit has also dominated the confrontational battle against Green Bay.
Matt LaFleur took over as the Packers head coach in 2019. In his first two years, the Packers swept the Lions twice — three wins over Matt Patricia and one over interim head coach Darrell Bevell. The Packers won the first game against Dan Campbell, when the Lions were starting their rebuilding process, in 2021. But since then, it’s been four games, and four Lions wins — including a swept last year and a solid 34-20 win earlier this season.
“Every week is a new challenge, but also a new opportunity. We’ve got a great task in front of us, a team that has really gotten after us,” Matt LaFleur said on Sunday. “I got a lot of respect for Dan (Campbell) and what he’s been able to establish, the culture. They got a good thing going right now. We’re gonna need our best effort, no doubt about it, to go into their building and come out on top.”
The respect goes both ways. Dan Campbell praised Packers quarterback Jordan Love, who’s shown signs of development since their first matchup in week 4.
“I just think he’s connecting on some of these throws,” Campbell mentioned. “I feel like he’s always been pretty poised, really. Some of these connections hadn’t, they hadn’t been able to connect on some of the critical moments. I feel like he’s making those. He looks pretty composed. He’s certainly athletic enough, he’s got big-arm talent.”
Besides the matchup, there’s also a talent discrepancy. The Lions are one of only five teams in the top 10 in DVOA both on offense and defense. The team is fourth overall in DVOA, fifth on offense, 10th on defense, and 14th on special teams. Meanwhile, the Packers are 19th on offense, 24th on defense, and 31st on special teams.
The Packers have gotten better over the last couple of weeks, winning two of their last three games, but it’s still an uphill battle to win in Michigan.
A four-day gap between games might hinder both teams, as short weeks are always a big challenge. The Packers, in particular, have been more affected by injuries. Sixteen players were listed on Monday’s injury report. Running backs Aaron Jones (knee) and Emanuel Wilson (shoulder) and wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (concussion) will most certainly be out.
The Lions have only four players listed, and three of them were full participants — the only DNP was guard Jonah Jackson, with a wrist injury.
“These guys gotta recover,” LaFleur said. “You’re only as good as your last game. And as soon as you start feeling good about yourself, you usually get knocked off. So, it’s something you gotta hit the reset button, win, lose or draw, and go back to the drawing board, prepare the right way.”
As a divisional matchup, the game is highly impactful for the playoff picture. Right now, the Packers have a 25% chance of reaching the postseason. With a win on Thursday, the number goes to 44%, but it decreases to 19% with a loss.