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'Monday Night Football' preview: What to watch for in Lions-Packers

Detroit Lions
2021 · 0-1-0
Green Bay Packers
2021 · 0-1-0

8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN) | Lambeau Field

Losing in the fashion the Green Bay Packers did in Week 1 would have some fanbases already checking out on the season. Luckily for every cheesehead this side of Wisconsin, their team is still coached by Matt LaFleur and boasts an offense that includes Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. On the flip side, the Detroit Lions are fresh off a surprisingly entertaining Week 1 showing that ended in defeat. To most, Dan Campbell's squad enters Monday Night Football as fodder for a team looking to atone for its shortcomings. The first-year head coach probably wouldn't want to be labeled any other way.

Here are four things to watch for Monday night when the Packers host the Lions:

1) How R-E-L-A-X-E-D will Rodgers be? If the reigning MVP says not to worry, it’s advice that’s probably worth listening to. Of course, Rodgers’ words, while sensible, mean little in the world of professional sports where you’re only as good as your last victory. Coming off one of the worst performances of his career, the Packers QB had some questioning if any residual issues from the drama-filled offseason carried over into the regular season. The 37-year-old should hush that chatter in short order come Monday night, given the opponent and scenario. Since Matt LaFleur arrived in 2019, Rodgers is 6-0 following a loss, averaging an efficient 252.2 YPG while tossing 16 TDs to zero INTs, per NFL Research. If Rodgers is able to maintain this trend and generously toss more TDs than interceptions, there may be next to nothing preventing him from remaining undefeated at home on MNF (8-0).

2) Mr. Goff goes back to Green Bay. Jared Goff's L.A. swan song came in a divisional round loss last postseason to these Packers. Despite coming up short, Goff, who was playing with a surgically-repaired right thumb, fared well in just his second career meeting with Green Bay (first: Week 8, 2018). Goff's combined numbers in those contests -- 234.5 YPG, 4-0 TD-INT, 108.9 passer rating -- suggest he'll be able to hang with his fellow Cal Bear, although his receiving corps is much less dynamic than any bunch he had with the Rams. Last week, Goff slung it 57 times, partly because of a 31-10 halftime deficit. Keeping the Lions afloat may again fall largely on Goff's arm, whether they fall into an early hole or not. The absence of Packers pass rusher Za’Darius Smith (back) should help but it's going to take a collective effort to best a defense that was thoroughly embarrassed in the season opener.

3) Packers looking to recalibrate Rodgers' weapons. When they're not synchronizing Instagram posts, Rodgers and Adams are among the NFL's best QB-WR tandems. Add in Jones and you have a trio capable of generating offense in a hurry. Like Rodgers, Adam and Jones were far from their usual game-wrecking selves against the Saints; the duo generated 78 total yards of offense and zero points. It's been nearly two years (Week 9 at LAC, 2019) since both were held scoreless in a regular season game. With Detroit, the NFL's worst scoring defense in 2020, picking up from where it left off with 41 points allowed to the 49ers, the duo's chances of reaching paydirt are high. In Jones' case, those odds are boosted by the fact that he set career highs with 168 rush yards and 236 scrimmage yards against the Lions in Week 2 exactly one year ago. Look for both to get active in this one early.

4) (Receiver) Help Wanted. Outside of Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson's 97, the Lions' next two highest receiving-yard outputs against the Niners came from running backs. Yup, that's right: D'Andre Swift finished with 65 while internet darling Jamaal Williams tallied 56. All three caught eight passes a piece. Coming in at fourth on the list? Receiver Kalif Raymond with 50 yards on three catches. As the team's No. 1 receiving threat, Hockenson will rightfully see a plethora of targets but one has to wonder if both Swift and Williams (#revengeSZN, anyone?) can maintain a dual-threat workload as the year goes on. Next to Raymond, Quintez Cephus and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown are going to need to step up, especially with oft-injured wideout Tyrell Williams (concussion) sidelined already.

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