Here’s a look at a key matchup heading into the Week 14 game between the Packers and Lions at Lambeau Field.
Packers RB corps vs. Lions LB corps
The Packers would love to pick up where they left off last week with their ground game in the win over the 49ers, when they ran for 136 yards (their third-highest total this season) and, unlike the previous week against Atlanta, succeeded on every short-yardage opportunity. Spearheading the effort was sixth-round rookie James Starks, who surprisingly had 18 carries — three times more than any of the Packers RBs last week — in his first NFL game for a team-high 73 rushing yards, including one run of 16 yards on which he showed very impressive tackle-breaking ability.
Starks’ relatively fresh legs could add a badly needed boost to Green Bay’s offense down the stretch, but while it’s possible he could become the featured back if he continues to run the way he did in his pro debut, head coach Mike McCarthy plans on rotating his three halfbacks (Brandon Jackson, Starks and Dimitri Nance, who sat out with a concussion last week) moving forward, with Jackson still being counted on as the primary weapon. Jackson ran for only 13 yards last week, but he had four catches out of the backfield for 63 yards, including a nifty 37-yard catch-and-run over the middle that set up a Packers score. In the Week Four game against the Lions, the Packers managed only 92 rushing yards, with both Jackson and FB Johh Kuhn, who reclaimed his short-yardage role last week, each carrying the ball nine times for 33 and 39 yards, respectively.
But overall, Detroit’s 25th-ranked run defense (tied for 27th in yards allowed per carry) has gotten run over more often than not, surrendering at least 134 yards rushing in five games so far this season. Detroit’s LB corps is extremely lackluster. On the flanks, veteran Julian Peterson is on his last legs, and Landon Johnson is ordinary at best. The top player in the unit is MLB DeAndre Levy, who is active and effective when healthy, which he hasn’t been much of the time this season. Detroit's LBs have combined to register only one sack and one turnover the entire season.