Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week #12 of 2009 - Packers v. Lions

The Green Bay Packers look to continue their two game winning streak against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Green Bay lost two defensive stalwarts (Aaron Kampman and Al Harris) last week against San Francisco and will have to rebound quickly before their Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

Detroit has their own injury trouble, starting quarterback Matthew Stafford separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder last week against Cleveland and starting wide receiver Calvin Johnson continues to nurse a knee injury. Both Stafford and Johnson are questionable for Thanksgiving Day. Here is a look at the top 10 players that will most likely line up against the Packers this week:

#10 - Gosder Cherilus (RT): is the ideal right tackle because of his size, consistency and strength. Cherilus is one of the only players on Detroit that grades out ahead of his counter part on the Packers (Mark Tauscher, T.J. Lang or Allen Barbre depending on who is the healthiest). Cherilus, a first round pick from the 2008 NFL Draft, looks to be Detroit's long term solution at right tackle.

#9 - Julian Peterson (OLB): leads the team in sacks but is definitely NOT the player he was earlier in his career in Seattle. What Peterson has lost in speed he makes up for with experience. Despite that fact, Peterson has taken on a leadership role that the young Lions (Pettigrew, Levy, Smith, Stafford and Johnson) sorely need.

#8 - Brandon Pettigrew (TE): was selected with one of the draft picks Detroit acquired from Dallas for underachieving wide receiver Roy Williams. Pettigrew is the second leading receiver for the Lions (334 yards and 2 touchdowns) and gives the Lions a dynamic tight end that they were sorely missing over the last decade.

#7 - DeAndre Levy (OLB): a former Wisconsin Badger, Levy was selected in the 3rd round in the 2009 NFL Draft by Detroit. Levy has made an instant impact for Detroit, he is tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss (6) and third on the team in total tackles (47).

#6 - Larry Foote (MLB): the former Pittsburgh Steeler along with Peterson provide quality leadership and production at linebacker. Foote leads Detroit in tackles (71) and is tied with Levy for the team lead in tackles for a loss (6).

#5 - Dominic Raiola (C): a consistent starter for Detroit, Raiola continues to captain the offensive line and has helped rookie Matthew Stafford transition nicely to the NFL. Raiola has gotten into verbal spats with various Green Bay players in the past, look for that trend to continue on Thanksgiving Day.

#4 - Jeff Backus (LT): another consistent starter along the offensive line for Detroit, Backus is not the flashiest left tackle in the NFL but his consistency (started every game at left tackle for Detroit since being drafted in 2001) makes him an indispensable player for Detroit.

#3 - Kevin Smith (RB): the leading rusher and the third leading receiver on Detroit, Smith gives Detroit a quality running back. Smith would have even higher numbers if he played for a team with a better record but instead of complaining Smith continues to go about his job like a consummate professional.

#2 - Matthew Stafford (QB): one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history before ever taking a regular season snap, Stafford won over his teammates last week when he completed a game winning touchdown pass on the last play from scrimmage to beat Cleveland despite having a separated left shoulder. Stafford is routinely singled out as "The Problem" with the compensation given to high draft picks but if Stafford continues to play this way he might be the savior of the Detroit Lions and you can't put a price on that.

#1 - Calvin Johnson (WR): next to Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson is one of the most impressive physical specimens at wide receiver in the NFL (6'5", 236). Despite miss action this season with a knee injury, Johnson leads Detroit in receiving yards, catches and yards per catch.

NOTE: I included Stafford and Johnson despite the fact that they might not even play against Green Bay for two reasons:
#1) Even playing at 50% health, Stafford and Johnson are much better then their back-ups (Culpepper at quarterback and the poo poo platter that is Detroit's back-up wide receivers).
#2) Detroit does NOT have that much talent on the roster. It was a stretch to fill out a top 10 list so if I did not include Stafford and Johnson the list would have been "The Top 8".

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