Whatever confidence the Green Bay Packers entered Week 1 with evaporated quickly in the hot Jacksonville sun, spiraling to an eventual 38-3 drubbing that head coach Matt LaFleur called “humiliating and humbling at the same time.” With a daunting schedule ahead of it this season, Green Bay needs to sort things out in a hurry, starting with a Week 2 home game against the Detroit Lions.
Historically, the Packers have dominated the Lions at Lambeau Field. From 1992 to 2014, the Packers won 24 consecutive home games against the Lions. While the two teams have split the last six games in Green Bay, DeShone Kizer and Brett Hundley featured prominently in two of the losses, so take the most recent results cum grano salis.
If any game on the Packers’ 2021 schedule was going to be close to a lock, it would certainly be a home-opening Monday Night Football game against Detroit in Week 2. Aaron Rodgers losing to Jared Goff at Lambeau in primetime? Inconceivable. Green Bay opens as a gigantic favorite, with the point spread hovering around-11 and the moneyline near -600 early in the week. A bettor would need to lay an significant amount of capital to get any real return by taking Packers this weekend.
If you watched Green Bay essentially fail to get off the bus against Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, what gives you the confidence that things will magically be sorted out in Week 2? It’s easy to say, “I’m sure Aaron Rodgers will figure it out.” And while that’s a plausible scenario, cheeseheads better hope that things play out that way, because the Lions actually had some fight in them in their opening contest. When it’s not a stretch to say that your punter was your best player in a game, there’s a lot that needs to be worked on, and it will take more than just flipping a switch.
The San Francisco 49ers were able to rack up points on the Lions early on at Ford Field this past Sunday, opening up a 38-10 lead midway through the third quarter. While both Detroit and Green Bay faced four-touchdown deficits in the second half, the Lions did something that the Packers could not do: put together some encouraging late offense. Goff led the Lions on 75-, 86-, and 59-yard touchdown drives to pull them within one score at 41-33 and had the ball just outside the red zone with under a minute to play and a chance to tie. The Packers’ drives in the second half? Two interceptions, a fumble, two punts, and a turnover on downs.
There’s no question that Lions head coach Dan Campbell and his motley crew of kneecap biters are entering the week of preparation with a better taste in their mouth after Sunday than LaFleur and the Packers are. There aren’t any sane people who would argue that Detroit is a better team than Green Bay, but talent isn’t everything, and Detroit is going to come in motivated. Couple that with a pretty impressive blueprint that the Saints laid out, and the Packers are looking at what already comes pretty darn close to a must-win scenario.
If the Packers were to lose to the Lions on Monday Night Football, it’s not inconceivable that things could go dark in a hurry. Week 3 brings a road test with Green Bay’s nemesis in Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, and then the Packers return to Lambeau to face the Pittsburgh Steelers — hardly a gimme. Weeks 5 and 6 bring reasonably winnable games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears, but both are on the road. Following that is an absolute gauntlet that includes Chase Young and the Washington Football Team, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals, and then, you know, a guy by the name of Patrick Mahomes on the road. Add a cherry on top with the Seattle Seahawks, a road game against the Minnesota Vikings that is never easy, and a date with a now-healthy Aaron Donald, and there aren’t too many games that you can point to for the Packers to get back on track.
Many of the Packers’ players had the attitude of “It’s a long season” following the debacle against New Orleans, but a loss to a spunky Detroit Lions team could mean that it’s long for all the wrong reasons.