When the 2022 NFL Schedule came out many probably didn’t think much of the Detroit Lions taking on the Green Bay Packers in the season finale. But oh how that has changed. Both teams will be playing for a berth in this season’s NFL playoffs. For the first time in a long time, the Lions are fielding an NFL-caliber team with a chance to make the playoffs, while the Packers overcame a mid-season six-game losing streak to be a win away from the postseason. The Packers will need to play the same way they have been in their current four-game winning streak. One unit, in particular, will need to play at a high level. The Green Bay Packers defensive line will have their work cut out for them against the Lions offensive line.
Green Bay Packers Defensive Line Faces a Tough Task Against the Detroit Lions
On paper, it appears that the Lions will have an advantage over the Green Bay Packers defensive line. Out of the five starting Lions offensive linemen, three of them were selected in the first round.
Starting left tackle Taylor Decker was selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Decker, an Ohio State product, flies under the radar but is a solid NFL left tackle. In his six years with the Lions, Decker has played in 91 games. He is a veteran offensive lineman who is very capable in pass protection as well as in the run game.
Penei Sewell, the Lions starting right tackle, was selected seventh overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. In just his second season, Sewell has developed into one of the best young right tackles in the NFL. Sewell is an exceptional athlete, which he utilizes in pass protection. His run blocking has developed nicely in his second season.
Arguably, the best offensive lineman of the bunch is starting center Frank Ragnow. Ragnow, an Arkansas product, was selected 20th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has been selected to two Pro Bowls. The Lions ability to run starts with Ragnow. He rarely gets bull rushed and is one of the toughest players in the NFL.
If you look at the overall talent between the Green Bay Packers defensive line and the Lions offensive line, the nod goes to Lions. They have superb talent and utilize that talent to win the line of scrimmage. Green Bay Packers defensive line coach/run game coordinator Jerry Montgomery will need to figure out a way for the Packers to get some push, in both the pass and run game, against the Lions offensive line.
Clark Versus Ragnow Matchup will be One to Watch
Possibly the matchup of the game will see Packers Kenny Clark match up against Frank Ragnow. Clark is the standout of the Packers interior defensive line. He will match up against Ragnow frequently on Sunday Night.
While Clark will see a lot of time against Ragnow, it might be best for Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry to move Clark around the defensive line to find him a favorable matchup. Clark is listed as a nose tackle, but he does have the ability to move around.
The weak spots on the Lions offensive line are at the guard position. Starting guards Jonah Jackson and Evan Brown are both capable guards. But neither have the talent that Ragnow, Decker, or Sewell possesses. If Barry is able to match up Clark against either Jackson or Brown, it might give Clark a major advantage.
Clark had a slow start to this season but has been playing his best football as of late. On the season, Clark has 52 total tackles, one forced fumble, and four sacks. He has made a name for himself as a superior interior pass rusher. His ability to create pressure from the inside will be needed against the Lions. Lions starting quarterback Jared Goff struggles with an inside pass rush. If Clark can create pressure, it will throw off the Lions passing attack.
Reed, Slaton, and Wyatt Will Need to Step Up
Entering this game, the Lions are 11th in the NFL in rushing yards. The Lions have three capable running backs on their roster. Former Packer Jamaal Williams is the Lions starting running back. He leads the Lions with 994 rushing yards and is just six yards away from earning his first 1,000 yards season.
D’Andre Swift is Williams’ backup and if he was with some other NFL team, he might be their starter. A former second-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, Swift is a key backup contributor for Detriot’s rushing game. On the season, he has 517 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Behind Williams and Swift is veteran Justin Jackson. Jackson, a longtime Los Angeles Charger, has contributed 168 yards rushing.
Jared Goff, under first-year offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, has had a solid season. But Goff has been helped out by the Lions rushing attack. If the Packers defense is going to be successful, they will need to make sure the Lions can’t establish the run. If they do that, the Packers can concentrate on bringing pressure on the very statue like Goff.
Packers defensive linemen Jarran Reed, TJ Slaton, and Devonte Wyatt, along with Clark, will need to have their best games. Reed, a free agent signee this past off-season, has shown up in pass-rushing situations. But against the Lions, he will need to play better against the run.
Wyatt has played more as of late. He has some promise as an inside pass rusher. But he might find his playing time limited on Sunday. With the Lions solid rushing attack, Barry and Montgomery might want to use the bigger Slaton more. Slaton is a big body, so if Barry wants to move Clark around, Slaton could find himself spelling Clark at nose tackle.
Old Time Football
As most old-time football coaches might say “games are won at the line of scrimmage”. That could be the case on Sunday night at Lambeau Field. The analogy might be old, but it still rings true today.
That is why it is crucial for the Green Bay Packers defensive line to win the line of scrimmage. If the Lions are able to control the line of scrimmage, the Packers will find themselves in a very big hole. A hole they might not be able to dig themselves out of.
It might not be “sexy” to watch the battle between the offensive and defensive lines, but on Sunday, it will be worth the watch. The battle may vary well determine who heads to the playoffs.