GREEN BAY—This one will be played straight up.
Read option? Forget about it. That's for Russell Wilson and Geno Smith, not Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.
Rodgers and Stafford will square off in a showdown of premier pocket passers, in a game between the Packers and Lions that will likely be determined by the play of those teams' defenses.
On the heels of a strong second-half performance in the Packers' 31-24 win over the Jets last Sunday, the Packers defense is primed to atone for its meltdown in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day last year, a 40-10 win by the Lions.
"They've always relied on the big play, throwing the ball up (the field). This is a talented team. They've got a lot of guys. You can't focus on one guy," Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of the high-powered Lions offense, which swamped the Giants with points early in Week 1, but hit a wall in a loss at Carolina last week.
The Lions have big-play running back Reggie Bush, who is also a threat as a receiver, and former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate – remember him? – and first-round draft pick Eric Ebron, a field-stretching tight end.
"Golden Tate gives them the best second receiver they've had. Ebron is another tall guy that can run and stretch the field," Capers said.
It's one guy in particular, however, on whom Packers fans are focusing. Calvin Johnson is the game's No. 1 receiver, a player of such immense big-play potential the mere mention of his name immediately raises the question: How are you going to defend him?
The answer to that question will have to wait until Sunday. What we know at this point is the Packers are armed with a new 3-4/4-3 hybrid defense that employs star linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers in multiple roles. They'll rush, they'll cover and they'll chase the ball.
How important is scheme?
"I've always believed that if you're going to choose, you choose fundamentals and technique over scheme. You can't count on scheme. I still feel the same way. The really good teams, scheme will help at times, but if you try to rely on scheme, you're kidding yourself," Capers said.
So the Packers will rely on Matthews, Peppers and company against Stafford, Johnson and the big-play Lions offense.
Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements knows the Lions' defensive cast well. It features tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker DeAndre Levy.
They're stout up front. They have an eight-man rotation. They rely on them to make things happen," Clements said. "You know what they do, but they do it well."
Though the Lions have a new head coach, Jim Caldwell, they haven't changed much of what former head coach Jim Schwartz espoused on defense.
Each team knows the other and its schemes. This one is an old-fashioned division showdown, and it begins at quarterback. ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 19