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Monday Night Preview: Can the Detroit Lions Escape Lambeau Field With a Victory?

This week on Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions and their 3-4 record travel to Lambeau Field to take on the 4-3 Green Bay Packers. A win in this divisional matchup is essential to both teams, who are each currently chasing the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.

Both of these squads are also not playing very well at the moment. Prior to a Week 8 bye, the Packers dropped their last two games, which included a 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 7. Meanwhile, the Lions are hoping to break a three-game losing streak and they enter this matchup fresh off a 20-15 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

According to our team rankings, which are based on nERD, the Packers rank as the NFL's 11th-best team, but the Lions aren't too far behind them at 19th.

This matchup between divisional opponents makes for an exciting showdown. Here are the important matchups that will likely influence the outcome of tonight's game.

Quarterback Breakdown

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has accounted for 12 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and 1,851 passing yards this season. Despite these impressive counting stats, though, our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric tabs him as playing below a league-average signal caller.

Among the 17 quarterbacks with at least 250 drop backs, Stafford's -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back ranks 14th and is below the current league average of 0.06. If we use that same group to rank him on Passing Success Rate (the percentage of drop backs contributing to a positive NEP), Stafford's 42.37% rate is just 16th.

Since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6, the Packers have been scrambling at the quarterback position, as Brett Hundley has thrown for four interceptions and a single touchdown in relief. He didn't help calm any concerns in that Week 7 tilt against the Saints, where he accounted for only 87 yards passing.

NEP tells us there's not much to be optimistic about, either -- Hundley's -0.23 Passing NEP per drop back and 29.69% Passing Success Rate would each rank last among the group of quarterbacks listed above if he had enough drop backs to qualify.

Running Back Breakdown

After playing in more of a timeshare in Week 6, Aaron Jones took the lead over Ty Montgomery in both snaps and touches in Week 7, logging 20 touches and 80% of the snaps to Montgomery's 5 touches and 12.73% snap share. He's more than deserved this increased workload when looking at our metrics.

Jones has a Rushing NEP per carry of 0.20 so far this season, which is well above the league average of -0.06. Montgomery, on the other hand, hasn't shown to be anything spectacular with a Rushing NEP per carry of -0.07. The conclusion doesn't change when we look at Rushing Success Rate, as Jones' 52.46% mark dwarfs Montgomery's 46.67%. Green Bay's one-dimensional offense may hurt Jones, but he should see a majority of the work again this week. We currently have him projected to play 75.62% of the snaps.

On the other side, Detroit's backfield has been much closer to a timeshare. Over the course of the year, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah have split the work evenly, and to make matters worse, Dwayne Washington sprinkled in with 19.72% of the snaps last week.

Out of this trio, Abdullah has played the best, evidenced by a Rushing NEP per carry of -0.09 that ranks 14th among the 19 running backs with 100-plus attempts. However, Abdullah offers little in the receiving game, an area dominated by Riddick, who has out-targeted him 35 to 17 en route to recording 25 receptions to Abdullah's 13.

The Lions also seem to have a plan for Washington going forward as a change-of-pace back. While he played the least number of snaps last week, he still recorded six rushing attempts. With a Rushing NEP per carry of -0.25, he's clearly the inferior option to Abdullah at the moment, so it is a bit puzzling as to why the Lions would allow him to steal carries.

Defensive Matchup

Per our schedule adjusted metrics, the Lions currently have the league's sixth-best defense, while the Packers have disappointed with the 20th-best unit.

Detroit's run defense has particularly excelled, ranking 4th per our metrics, while they've performed above expectation against the pass, coming in as the 11th-best squad when the ball is in the air.

They seem to be a clear advantage over Green Bay here, who rank 19th against the pass and 21st against the run so far this year.

Historical Comparison

According to our models, three games correlate at least 88% of the time with this game.

The highest of these (88.79%) occurred between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears on November 17th, 2013. This contest required overtime, but the Bears eventually prevailed by a score of 23-20. Chicago was led by scores from Matt Forte and their defense, along with three field goals from Robbie Gould. The Ravens also notched a pair of touchdowns from Torrey Smith and Ray Rice, but ultimately could not overcome the two interceptions thrown by Joe Flacco.

The Bears represent the Packers in this historical comparison, resulting in a Packers win and cover, who are currently 2.0-point underdogs.

Game Prediction

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