November 3rd, 2017
Lions beware against
Packers without Rodgers
By KEITH GAVE
No Aaron Rodgers under center when the Lions visit Green Bay in their second nationally televised game in as many weeks? No problem, eh?
At least that’s a tempting point of view – for anyone with a short memory.
Sure, the Lions might be a slight favorite as they visit Lambeau Field, their personal house of horrors for more than a generation. But consider this dispatch from The Associated Press on the first day of 2012:
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — With Aaron Rodgers bundled up on the sideline in cold and windy conditions, the backup quarterback Matt Flynn set franchise records with 480 passing yards and 6 touchdowns — the final one to Jermichael Finley with 1 minute 10 seconds left — giving the Packers a 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a wild regular-season finale
That was the lead paragraph of another very said story for Lions. A few paragraphs lower, this:
Flynn barely got the Packers past the Lions (10-6) and quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for 520 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Detroit has lost 21 straight road games to Green Bay, including the postseason.
The Lions finally ended their streak of futility in Green Bay on Nov. 15, 2015. They had that game in hand but nearly blew it, needing a Mason Crosby missed 52-yarder as time expired to hold on, 18-16, to end the 24-game road skid. That remains their only win against the Packers in Wisconsin since 1991.
Your point, Captain Obvious?
Take nothing for granted, even with backup quarterback Brett Hundley coming off a rough performance in his first NFL start in Week 7, a 26-17 home loss against the New Orleans Saints. Coming off the bye week, the Pack has had two weeks to prepare Hundley, a 2015 fifth-round pick out of UCLA, ready for this game.
And the way the Lions are playing, it will take a monumental effort to win a game they badly need to level their record at .500 after so many near misses. The Lions continue to find interesting ways to lose football games, but they truly outdid themselves against visiting Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
Consider only that they outgained the Steelers 482-392, won the time of possession and turnover battles – and still lost 20-15. That’s because Detroit couldn’t convert for touchdowns on its five trips to the red zone. The team ran 16 red zone plays without scoring a touchdown, the most plays run by any team in the red zone this season in a game without getting a TD.
What could they possibly do for an encore against the Rodgers-less Packers? This is why we tune in.
Lions (3-4) at Green Bay (4-3)
Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
TV: Radio: ESPN; WQON-FM (100.3)
Line: Lions minus-2.5
Prediction: Lions 19, Green Bay 13
Michigan (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (4-4, 1-4)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
At Michigan Stadium
TV/radio: FOX, WQON-FM (100.3)
Line: Michigan minus-14
I’m can’t imagine what Jim Harbaugh is trying to accomplish by being coy about his starting quarterback in this game. Headlines suggesting he “hints” at starting redshirt freshman Brandon Peters are laughable. If Peters doesn’t start. . . well, we won’t even go there because the notion is ridiculous.
Peters entered Saturday’s game at Rutgers with 7:01 to play in the first half, and Michigan was a different team thereafter. He energized the lethargic Wolverines’ offense the moment he stepped into the huddle, and when his first drive ended in a touchdown that legion of Michigan alumni felt real hope for the first time since the season’s opening kick-off.
That said, keep in mind that Minnesota under coach P.J. Fleck is no Rutgers. The Gophers, while hardly an offensive juggernaut, have defended well. They make few mistakes, and Peters certainly will be challenged more than he was in New Jersey. Minnesota has held five opponents to fewer than 200 yards passing this season, while intercepting eight passes.
The Wolverines will need an improving rushing attack to complement what Peters is asked to do with his arm. All they’ll need is a few touchdowns. Minnesota’s anemic offense will have trouble scoring against Michigan’s defense, just as it did in its loss at home to Michigan State.
Prediction: Michigan 20, Minnesota 10
No. 24 Michigan State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) vs. No. 7 Penn State (7-1, 4-1)
Spartan Stadium, East Lansing.
Line: Michigan State plus-11
This should be an entertaining game if only for the number of compelling storylines:
- Both teams should be a little ornery, coming off disappointing losses in games they should have won. Penn State was in command of the game well into the closing moments at Ohio State, but played “not-to-lose” football in the fourth quarter. And lost. Michigan State played well enough to win at Northwestern, but a youthful mistake by quarterback Brian Lewerke cost the Spartans dearly. He’ll learn from it.
- Remember Nittany Lions coach James Franklin kept McSorley throwing the ball in the waning minutes with in the game well in hand last season? Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio does, saying he felt it was because the Spartans allowed offensive lineman Jack Allen to run for a touchdown in their 55-16 win in East Lansing a year earlier. Penn State players also said the Allen TD run was used as motivation.
- Franklin last year accused Dantonio and his staff had used negative recruiting tactics against his program, which Dantonio naturally denied. There’s no love lost between these two programs, which always makes for a good game. That said, the Spartans are no match for a Penn State team that destroyed Michigan and should have beaten Ohio State.
Prediction: Penn State 36, Michigan State 20