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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Lions


First of all fans, don't panic. These teams who have jumped out to 3-1 records and even Philly with a 4-0 record, those teams are going to start to come back to the pack soon. The Packers just have keep working and capitalize when they do. One of them can be taken care of this week with Detroit, making them 3-2 and the Pack would be 2-4. All is not lost - we're not out of it yet.

Injuries have stricken the Detroit Lions worse than almost any team in the NFL. They've lost wide receiver Charles Rogers for the second straight year with a collarbone injury. Their top receiver this year, first-round pick Roy Williams, picked up an ankle injury last week, but he might be able to play. He's been a big-time receiver for them.

Detroit likes to run the West Coast offense. They are a ball-control type team. They will throw a lot of short passes, run a lot of counters, a lot of 'I' formation, and a little bit of play-action. Essentially what I'm saying is, the Packers defense should be familiar with their offense since they see it every week going up against the Packers offense in practice. It's pretty much the same offense - same audibles, same blitz pick-ups, everything.

When you play teams and coaches that you've played before, like Steve Mariucci, who was an assistant coach with the Packers for four years and was Brett Favre's first quarterbacks coach in Green Bay, sometimes the games will start kind of slow because it's kind of a chess match with both opponents knowing each other very well.

The Green Bay Packers have to go into this game very aggressive. When you're on the road, the best formula is to score early and hold the home team to field goals. You cannot let the home crowd get behind them.

Joey Harrington is a young quarterback who has been playing well of late. He hasn't put up big numbers, but he's been very efficient and has been running the Detroit offense very well. The one thing he's got to cut down on is his mental mistakes and forcing the ball. Last year, he got into trouble in the game at Lambeau when he tried to force some passes and the Packers were able to get some interceptions and win the game.

Look for Darren Sharper to take control of the game, hopefully intercept some passes, line the defense up and just step out and be the leader that I want him to be. The cornerbacks, with Ahmad Carroll joining Al Harris in the starting lineup for the first time in the regular season, will be going up against Az Hakim and Roy Williams, with Tai Streets also another weapon for the Lions. Expect the Packer defenders to get up right in the receivers' faces and challenge them, and challenge Harrington to make the perfect throw.

The strength of this Detroit team is their defense. Their front seven is very good against the run, and they put it on Michael Vick last week when they beat the Falcons. They sacked him, forced him into a lot of errant throws, and made sure he was very uncomfortable in the pocket. Look for the Detroit Lions to try to blitz Brett Favre early and try to blitz four people from the weak side, forcing Ahman Green to stay in to block and keep him out of the pass pattern.

To counter that, the Packers will try to get Javon Walker one-on-one with any of their cornerbacks, former Pro Bowler Dre' Bly included. There's a real height difference there - Walker is 6-foot-3, and none of the Lions' top three corners are taller than 5-foot-10.

Look for the Packers to throw the ball down the field like they are capable of doing. Right now, they have the league's leading receiver in yardage with Walker, and Donald Driver is in the top 10 in the NFC also. If they can get the ball down the field, the Packers will be in good shape.

If the Lions decide to double-team the receivers on the outside, which they might have to do, that should leave Bubba Franks with some room to work in the middle of the field. The Packers will have opportunities to make plays, they just have to take advantage of them.

The offensive line must re-establish the dominance that they have shown in the past. The Packers need to get back to running the ball and controlling the clock. If the Packers get ahead, they definitely will have to run the ball.

The key is to come out and expect to win. You can't get down on yourself because things can change very quickly in the National Football League. The Packers must be aggressive on defense, and they have to tackle well.

Overall, I predict that the Packers will get off the schneid and come out of Detroit with a victory. If they take care of the ball, they will be back to their winning ways.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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