1) How much will the Packers miss injured defensive lineman Kenny Clark?
A lot. The run defense struggled last week, even with the Pro Bowl nose tackle on the field in the first half. Without him, Green Bay is left with starters (Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and Kingsley Keke) who should be backups and backups (Montravius Adams and Willington Previlon) who should be on the street. The Lions don’t have a stud in the backfield like Dalvin Cook, but Kerryon Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and D’Andre Swift are good enough to cause problems for a defense that gave up 6.1 yards per carry in week 1. It’s vital that the linebackers play the run better than they did against Minnesota. That’s especially true of the Smith Brothers, who were preoccupied with rushing and paid little attention to their less glamorous responsibilities.
2) What will the offensive line look like?
It depends on whether Billy Turner is ready to return after missing the opener with a knee injury. If he plays, expect the line to look the way we all expected it to look before the start of camp. That would mean, from left to right, David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Turner, and Rick Wagner. If Turner doesn’t play – which is more likely – Lucas Patrick would almost certainly step in for him at right guard. There are other ways the line could be assembled with or without Turner, but these would seem to be the most logical configurations. As far as depth is concerned, the Packers are down to rookie guard Jon Runyan and tackle Yosh Nijman. It’s hard to figure out why Lane Taylor (ACL) wasn’t replaced on the 53-man roster.
3) Will AJ Dillon get more carries than he did in the opener?
Since Dillon ran the ball only twice against the Vikings, it’s safe to assume the answer to this question will be yes. That said, don’t expect his number of carries to go up too much. The 1-2 punch of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams is one of the best in the NFL. This doesn’t leave much room for Dillon, who would probably be getting 10 to 15 carries with at least half the teams in the league. But nobody ever expected this year’s second-round pick to play much in 2020 as long as Jones and Williams stayed healthy. Dillon was drafted with an eye toward future years, so whatever he produces in the next few months will be gravy.
Until finding out on Friday that Pro Bowl wide receiver Kenny Golladay and starting corners Desmond Trufant and Justin Colemen weren’t going to play, I was actually tempted to pick the Lions. After all, they almost beat the Packers twice last season, the second time with third-stringer David Blough at quarterback. But then I imagined the Packers going on the road to face a better team without Davante Adams, Jaire Alexander, and Kevin King.
Even with all the key injuries, I expect the Lions to be competitive. Quarterback Matt Stafford has usually played very well against the Packers, and even without Golladay, he still has talent around him. Along with three good backs who’ll challenge Green Bay’s shaky run defense, tight end T.J. Hockenson and wide receivers Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola could cause matchup problems. The Lions will likely score in the 20s, but can they slow down Aaron Rodgers with a collection of pedestrian corners? The Vikings sure couldn’t.
After a very impressive win in week 1 and a Sunday nighter against the Saints in week 3, this could be a trap game – even so early in the season. That said, it’s just really hard to pick against Rodgers when he’s playing with all the confidence in the world, and he’ll be facing a bunch of backup corners. I’ll take the 6.5 points but go with the Packers to win. GREEN BAY 31-26 (Season records: 1-0 straight-up/1-0 vs. the spread)