PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the first of five key matchups in the Packers' Week 12 game against the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
Packers CB Tramon Williams vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson
How do you stop a 6-5, 236-pound "Megatron" bomb? That's the industrial-sized question facing Williams, who is likely to be responsible for the lion's share of coverage on Johnson, a major mismatch in every way for most NFL cornerbacks. An athletic wonder capable of running vertical routes faster than most receivers, Johnson is also adept at making tough catches in traffic, especially of the jump-ball variety. After getting off to arguably the greatest start of any wideout in league history — scoring a pair of TDs in each of his first four games — Johnson has cooled off a bit lately with no scores in his last two games.
In seven matchups against the Packers, Johnson has 35 catches for 508 yards and eight TDs. In the Week Four 28-26 loss to the Packers last season, he had 6-86-2. In the 7-3 win in Detroit in Week 14, he had only one catch for 44 yards.
Williams, who appears to have recaptured the pivotal playmaking skills he displayed in a breakout campaign last season (four interceptions in the last three games), would be wise to study lots of film of the job Bears CB Charles Tillman did on Johnson a few weeks ago in Chicago. Tillman went right at Johnson with nasty, physical press coverage much of the time, holding him to seven catches for a relatively harmless 89 yards.
After being picked on early and often by Bucs QB Josh Freeman, Williams salvaged a rough game last Sunday with two timely interceptions. On his pick just before halftime, he displayed great relentlessness, chasing Mike Williams completely across the field before pulling off a picturesque theft. Williams has struggled on sideline fades and comeback routes all season, but his recent string of takeaways seems to be a promising sign.