Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford

The Green Bay Packers are trying to put their season back on track as they clash with division rivals the Detroit Lions on NFL Thursday Night Football, while their opponents, having a nice little winning streak of their own, are trying to find out if they can actually make a weird, crazy playoff run.

The Lions started their way out of the NFL’s cellar when they beat the Packers 18-16 in Green Bay, as a familiar scene from recent weeks developed: The Packers getting hardly any offense for three quarters before waking up too late. Aaron Rodgers leading some sort of comeback only to fall short. In this case, it was a blocked field goal that ended the game, which at the time was the third consecutive loss for Green Bay. They’ve now lost four of their last five.

The Packers continue to play without Jordy Nelson, who recently said he doesn’t think the team’s problems (7-4, 2nd in the division) have anything to do with his absence. However, with Green Bay only 23rd in passing yards and Rodgers having his worst season in recent memory, it’s not just the banged up offensive line that should be shouldering the blame. Rodgers doesn’t have his best wide receiver on the field (and a few others as well), and it’s hurting his risk taking ability and the team’s ability to stretch defenses.

The Lions are coming off their best game of the season, beating up the Philadelphia Eagles 45-14 on Thanksgiving. There’s still the front office Ford family battles happening above their heads, but on the field players and coaches seem to be happy. Matthew Stafford is linking up with Calvin Johnson like they haven’t done in a while, although Johnson is carrying an injury, like almost every game in the last two years, heading into this contest. A big change has been Ameer Abdullah. He’s still not the safest two hands in football, but the Lions have found a way to combine him in a running game that has three different levels of executions and players to do it, finally getting out of their offensive rut after four consecutive games of being held to 19 points or less.

The Packers quelled the of P-A-N-I-C time with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, only to follow that up with a loss at home to Green Bay, which got everyone thinking about a disastrous end to this season after a 6-0 start. The Lions have actually owned Green Bay with three wins in four games recently, but it had more to do with a defensive line that wouldn’t stop badgering Rodgers. It’s gone, but if the Packers don’t get their offense going early, with Eddie Lacy involved too, this might be another game they fall behind in and won’t be able to save themselves from officially being in a crisis.

Predictions: Maybe the biggest key for the Packers will be the play calling from the sidelines. Staying away from play action which isn’t something Rodgers does very well and trusting his arm and vision is the best way to go with the Packers, who can’t afford to fall behind early.

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