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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 5: Lions vs Packers

Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers: DET +7 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week this line was -7 on the look-ahead and that's exactly where it re-opened after Week 4. You would think that this is a sharp line based on the lack of change, but I think this line should be closer to -4.

60% of the bets are on the Packers.

When the Packers have the ball

When I first committed to this pick, it seemed as though Jermichael Finley wasn't going to be in the lineup. That's changed as he's been back at practice all week. Does that change my mind? No. Does it hurt my chances? Somewhat.

In the poll, voting is split down the middle on this one. Usually that's an indication to stay away from the game, but I do like the value of a full touchdown in this matchup.

The biggest concern I have is with the Lions cornerbacks. It's unlikely that Chris Houston is going to play. He's not only their best cover guy, but the dropoff to Darius Slay is significant. When you have names like Cobb and Nelson on the outside, that's bad news for Detroit.

They also don't have the best cover guys underneath at linebacker.  Rodgers is going to have his pick of where he wants to go with the ball on Sunday.

The good news is their are difference makers for this Detroit defense. Delmas and Quin make up for a lot of the mistakes in this unit. If their defensive line gets beat or caught out of position, their is stable support on the second level. If a corner needs helps, their is support over the top. If you think safety play is overrated in this league, ask the Dallas Cowboys or St Louis Rams what it's like to have liabilities at this position.

Up front, the Lions have beasts all across the line. Usually I shrug off the problems the Packers have on the offensive line, largely due to the savvy play and athleticism of Rodgers, but it's a bit of a different story when we're talking about a DL like this. Suh is coming off his most complete game of the season, and he's the top ranked DT after four weeks.

I don't think Detroit will shutdown the Green Bay offense by any means, but I do think they'll be able to cause some problems.

When the Lions have the ball

As dynamic as Reggie Bush is in this offense, the best part about this unit has been their offensive line. Stafford has faced the third least amount of pressure through September. He's also been getting the ball out faster than any other QB in the NFL. That is a far, far cry from what took place with this team last year.

When you add a guy like Bush into the mix, it really puts opposing defenses in a tough spot. If they double and triple team Megatron on the outside, the entire field opens up for Bush. He can hurt you on a draw, swing pass, or over the middle on a pass route. Once he does get the ball in his hands, he can make you miss, too. Last week he forced eight missed tackles on his way to 173 total yards and a touchdown. Without him in the lineup, this offense completely changes.

With Burleson out, some were concerned about what would happen to the passing game. Ryan Broyles played 43 snaps, so look for him to become more involved in this game. Pettigrew, often maligned for his butter fingers, hauled in all seven passes sent his way. I don't expect that kind of consistency every week, but he is a weapon that the Packers have to account for.

There isn't a lot of mystery to the Green Bay defense. They have one legitimate pass rusher in Matthews, average inside linebackers, and a pretty solid secondary. Yet, things change if Matthews is out or less than 100%. He insists that he's playing this week, but every player says that. The better indication that he'll be in the lineup is that McCarthy said he was "optimistic" that Matthews will play. He has a long history of hamstrig problems though, so I'm not sure if he'll be the same game-changer that he usually is.

Either way, there's a lot to like about this Detroit offense so far, and I expect them to keep up with the Packers.

Bottom Line

I love the Packers and I picked them to go to the Super Bowl, but I have no issue betting against them if I see value. With a healthy Reggie Bush and good pass protection, the Detroit offense is back. I do like this GB defense too, but how healthy is Clay Matthews? He insists he was only taken out of the Bengals game as a precaution, but he had hamstring issues last year too. Either way, the Lions offense should put up points.

Aaron Rodgers is 5-0 ATS following a bye, which doesn't bode well for this pick. There is a wealth of passing options and now that Lacy's back, Green Bay can operate with some balance. It also hurts if Chris Houston will be out as expected, because his replacement Darius Slay is a liability. Even so, the Lions defense is playing strong this year on the backs of a lethal defensive front. A healthy Louis Delmas and addition of Glover Quin has helped shore up things on the back end.

I'm not sure if Detroit will win this game, but I do think they will keep it close. If they are down a couple scores late, Stafford also has the ability to grab a backdoor cover.

NFL Pick: DET +7
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