Last week, the Green Bay Packers recorded a shutout victory, which was the first since 2010 (at New York Jets, 9-0), and the first home shutout since 2009 (vs. Detroit Lions, 26-0). This week, the Green and Gold travel to Detroit to take on their division rivals. One of the most critical matchups for this game will be the Packers running game versus the Lions run defense.
Green Bay Packers Run Game Is Biggest Key to Victory Against Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers Running Backs
The Packers have a bit of a running back by committee although Aaron Jones seems to be distancing himself from the pack. Jones is quickly becoming both a fan and player favorites. Last week, Aaron Rodgers spoke positively about the second-year running back. He basically asked the coaches to feature him more into the game plan.
Jones came back after serving his two-game suspension and has been on a tear. In the games he’s played he has amassed 17 carries for 107 yards good for 6.3 yards per carry, but he’s only receiving 8.5 carries per game. Jones is getting first downs on 41.2 percent of his runs.
Running back Jamaal Williams has been the leading candidate this far in part due to Jones’ suspension and will see his carries drop unless he proves otherwise. Williams has had 47 carries for 162 yards on the season, which is good for 11.8 attempts per game. The BYU product has gotten first downs on 23.4 percent of his runs.
Last season, both Jones and Williams had great games against top-notch opponents. Jones had 125 yards, and a one score performance on 19 carries at the Dallas Cowboys. He added another 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against the New Orleans Saints. Last season, Williams’ coming out party was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he had 21 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown.
Detroit Lions Run Defense
The Lions boast one of the worst run defenses in the National Football League. Coming into this game, they have allowed the most rushing yards (631), which is 61 more yards than the second-worst team in the league. Their run defense is allowing the third-worst yards per attempt (5.3) and ranks last in yards per game (157.8). In other words, running backs are eating up this atrocious defense alive each week.
Coming into this season, Pro Football Focus released their annual rankings of each aspect of the game, including run defense. They ranked the Lions 26th out of 32 teams. And, among returning players, the highest graded run stopper was safety Glover Quin (85.2). PFF also adds that a year ago Detroit finished 20th in percentage of missed tackles on run plays (12.2 percent).
The Jets had four players gain at least two yards per carry, and two running backs rush for at least 50 yards. Isaiah Crowell had 10 carries for 102 yards and two scores, and Bilal Powell had 12 for 60 yards. The San Francisco 49ers did the same. Matt Breida had 11 carries for 138 yards and one touchdown, while Alfred Morris finished with 14 carries for 48 yards, and 3.4 yards per attempt. The New England Patriots struggled to move the ball both in the air and on the ground, but their running backs still managed to have good games. Sony Michel had 14 carries for 50 yards at 3.6 yards per carry while James White was more effective with four carries going for 37 yards at 9.3 yards per rush. And finally, last week Ezekiel Elliott had 25 carries for 152 yards at 6.1 yards per attempt.
The Lions have shown an inability to stop the run, and the Packers need to take full advantage of it. Building confidence in the running game is vital for playoff success as well as in big games (at New England, at Los Angeles Rams), and it will help the team, especially the defense.
Prediction: Green Bay 27-20 Detroit