Romilly Evans reckons a resurgent Eddie Lacy is back for his regular second-half push, and can help Green Bay turn the tables on Detroit along the road to the Super Bowl...
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Start-time: Friday, 01:30
TV: Live on SS1
The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions renew divisional hostilities late tonight after just a few weeks off. But during that time each has continued on their respective divergent paths. The Lions have now won three straight, while the Pack (once a league-leading 6-0) have now lost four of their past five matches.
This stark reversal of fortunes has been embodied by their respective quarterbacks. Detroit's Matt Stafford has once again confounded his doubters to suggest he may yet be defined as an elite QB, whereas serial MVP Aaron Rodgers has sprung a few leaks aboard the Good Ship Green Bay.
In short, you write Stafford off at your peril, and rely on him at your own risk. Yet such are the tools at his disposal, notably a resurgent relationship with the artist formerly known as Megatron, that redemption was always only one assured game away. Over the past three, Stafford has racked up an aggregate eight touchdowns for just one interception, with 861 yards and a 67% completion percentage.
Now factor in the resurgence of the Motor City's D (under Ezekiel Ansah who posted a best-ever 3.5 sacks and one fumble recovery against Philly) to a tighter all-round effort on O (just one turnover during this winning streak), and you see why this rally is gaining traction. Heck, even lead rookie Ameer Abdullah is finding his feet on the run.
However, the suspicion persists that this pattern is all a little too familiar, and Detroit will flatter only to ultimately deceive in falling agonisingly short of play-off relevance. After all, they haven't swept the season series over the Pack since 1991.
Rodgers, however, typically stands tall in the NFC North when critics fear his powers are headed south. Despite his signature moves and career highlight reel, it's an undeniable truth that this Green Bay offense is no one-man band. Indeed, it operates at optimum when its receiving talents are balanced by his rushing skills, giving Rodgers options and more time to hit his marks, either with deep downfield strikes, or a low-risk succession of short-field, surgeon-like cuts.
The Pack has lost this equilibrium of late. However, the return of Eddie Lacy to rude health (he gashed divisional top dogs Minnesota for more than 100 yards off 22 carries) smacks of yet another second coming in the season's second half from the one-time rookie of the year. James Starks, who carried the can so well for the first past of the campaign, remains another RB threat, and this dynamic duo can keep the chains moving and provide Rodgers with time.
That's time he assuredly didn't enjoy when he was pressed into predictably passing it 61 times the last occasion these two sides met. The Packers' D didn't do a lot wrong against Chicago and while Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson is arguably the most unplayable combo in the NFL when they're on song, Green Bay still possess the better balance on personnel match-ups across the park.
Lacy can prove the star as he gears Green Bay up for another protracted postseason push. He has averaged 20 carries in the past two games (after a season median closer to 10) so you can see the way this offense is trending. It should offer Rodgers all the cover he needs. Lions fans, however, will once again be left scratching their heads as to why their team seldom adds up to the sum of its impressive components.
Back Green Bay Packers to win on the Match Moneyline @ 1.738/11 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 2.0811/10 or better
Back Green Bay Packers (-1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.981/1 or better
Back Over 23.5 Total Green Bay Points @ 1.981/1 or better
Back E. Lacy to be First / Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 9.08/1
Back R. Cobb to be First / Anytime Touchdown Scorer @ 10.09/1