Green Bay Packers (6-3) at Detroit Lions (4-5)
I don’t think it’s possible to talk about the Packers without first talking about how bad their injury situation has gotten. Already missing stud middle linebacker Desmond Bishop and replacement DJ Smith for the season, the Packers have also put starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga and starting rush linebacker Nick Perry on injured reserve. Jordy Nelson returns for this one, but Greg Jennings remains out. Defensively, key players Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews have already been ruled out for this one.
In a way, this injury situation is worse than it was in 2010. In 2010, the sheer volume of injuries they had was ridiculous, but they were able to keep key players like Jennings, Matthews, and Woodson healthy all year. They never lost a player as talented and important as anyone in that trio. Matthews’ injury will be the key one since that’s the most recent one. Without him and Perry, they don’t have much chance of getting any pressure on Matt Stafford this week. Those are their starting rush linebackers and their defensive line is once again getting minimal pressure on the quarterback. They already ranked 31st in the league in pass rush efficiency (sacks + .75(hits) + .75(hurries)/pass rush snaps), only ahead of the Saints, so losing Matthews, who is 4th at his position in pass rush efficiency, they’re in real trouble.
They were able to rank 2nd in opponent’s scoring in 2010 despite injuries because Matthews, Woodson, and Bishop stayed healthy and because BJ Raji, Cullen Jenkins, Nick Collins, and Tramon Williams all played at a Pro-Bowl level. Jenkins left as a free agent and wasn’t really replaced. Collins had to retire because of injuries. Raji is having a 2nd straight down year. Only Williams is playing close to the level he was playing at in 2010. They’ve added a couple nice young players to the mix like Casey Hayward, but this is nowhere near the defense it was in 2010 so the situations aren’t comparable. They’re not as good as they were in 2010 and they’re certainly not as good as they were last year in the regular season.
Last year, they didn’t exactly play great defense either, but they were able to make up for it with a combination of an incredible turnover differential and one of the best offensive outputs of all time. After going +24 in turnovers last year and forcing 38 takeaways, this year they are just +4 with 12 takeaways through 9 games. After scoring 35.0 points per game last year, they are at just 26.6 per game this year, thanks to injuries to receivers, most notably Jennings, as well as struggles on the ground and on the offensive line, which will only get worse with Bulaga out. That might still seem like a lot of points, and it is, but compared to last year and with the team still having issues defensively, it’s enough to knock them out of the ranks as an elite team. They’re not bad at all. I just think they’re overrated.
For instance, they are 3.5 point favorites here in Detroit. Normally teams dominate as road favorites out of a bye, going 43-15 ATS in this situation since 2002, including 21-3 ATS in the division. However, the Packers don’t deserve to be road favorites against a good Detroit team this week and as we saw with the Chargers in Cleveland a few weeks ago, if you don’t deserve to be road favorites, that trend doesn’t do you a ton of good.
The yards per play differential method of computing the real line gives us a real line of Detroit -4.5, while the rate of sustaining drives differential method of computing real line says this should be a pick em. Neither of them say that Green Bay deserves to be road favorites. In fact, if you average them out, they say that Detroit should at least be favored by a couple of points here at home.
Detroit is also in a nice spot. Divisional home dogs are 11-5 ATS off a loss as divisional road favorites since 2002, 49-35 ATS since 1989. Given how much the public is pounding Green Bay (the public always loses in the long run), I like Detroit for a couple of units. I am a little scared to go against Rodgers, who can always go into eff you mode like he did against Houston.
Public lean: Green Bay (90% range)
Sharps lean: GB 15 DET 11
Final update: No change.
Detroit Lions 31 Green Bay Packers 30 Upset Pick +165
Pick against spread: Detroit +3.5 (-110) 2 units