Monday Night Football Preview
Despite this matchup going back over 90 years through the NFL’s history, this week will only be the sixth time the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers will face off on Monday Night Football. The last time these two teams met on MNF, the game ended in a controversial illegal use of the hand’s penalty against the Lions that allowed the Packers to kick a last-second field goal and win the game. Hopefully, this week’s contest is just as exciting but not as heartbreaking for Detroit fans.
Lions at Packers
Odds: Packers -11.5 | Over/Under: 48.5
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Lambeau Field will be the site of this Monday Night game as the Packers will be 11.5 point favorites against the visiting Lions. 11.5 points is an interesting spread as it will require Green Bay to post more than just a simple double-digit lead to cover. In their last six contests against Detroit, Green Bay has only won by double digits once and outside of that have only beaten the Lions by an average of four points during that time. Now, obviously, these are two different teams who are on the opposite sides of the contention spectrum but it is safe to say the Lions have what it takes to make this game interesting, especially given how they closed the gap against the 49ers in Week 1. Take the points along with the Over on Monday Night.
If you kept tabs on the NFL offseason this past year, one of the most prevalent and constantly reported on stories was the status of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Some days he was as good as gone and off to greener pastures out west, other days he was so happy he would never want to leave Green Bay. Eventually, everything worked itself out, for now, and Rodgers started Week 1 for the Green and Gold. While his performance was less than desirable for fantasy managers to start the year (finishing as the QB34 depending on scoring formats), Rodgers will get another chance to get his season going with one of his favorite opponents in Detroit. In five of his last six games against the Lions, Rodgers has averaged 316 passing yards and over two passing touchdowns per game. Rodgers will need to shake off some of his Week 1 rust for fantasy managers to continue starting him every week going forward but based on his familiarity of this matchup and a Lions’ secondary that allowed over 300 yards in Week 1 to the 49ers, look for Rodgers to be a solid starting option on Monday Night.
With the firing of Matt Patricia and the hiring of Dan Campbell, a signal was sent throughout Detroit’s organization that things would be changing and that transition would come quickly. No move made that more evident than in March when Lions’ long-time signal caller Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and three draft picks. Goff would be tasked with leading a new-look Lions team in 2021 (and potentially beyond) and looked good in his first start last week. He finished with 338 yards on a 67% completion percentage for three touchdowns and one interception, finishing as the QB3 in Week 1. While a majority of those numbers were posted as Detroit was trying to make its way back into the game in the second half, fantasy managers who started him were delighted by this surprising outcome. Goff will have another tough matchup on Monday Night, as the Packers have a lot of talented players on defense and will look to redeem themselves after surrendering 38 points and five passing touchdowns to the Saints in Week 1. Goff is still a streaming quarterback at this point and will need to continue putting together performances as he did in Week 1 to elevate past that but he is a risky play in Week 2 and other options should be considered before starting him on Monday Night.
The dynamic duo of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams was one that caused lots of headaches for prospective managers during fantasy draft season as few knew who would take a majority of the carries/passing work and which would be left out. But they both proved valuable in Week 1 and showed there may be enough running work to support two relevant running backs for fantasy. Swift finished with 39 rushing yards on eleven attempts and added eight receptions on eleven targets for 65 yards and one receiving touchdown while Williams had 54 rushing yards on nine attempts and one rushing touchdown along with eight receptions on nine targets for 56 yards. Both players finished Week 1 in the top five among all running backs in 0.5 PPR scoring formats and will try to find a way to keep the momentum going on Monday Night. Green Bay allowed 144 all-purpose yards and one receiving touchdown to the Saints’ backfield last week and should be better suited to handle Swift and Williams this week. Despite the matchup and the continued quandary into their roles in the Lions’ offense, both Swift and Williams are good starts this week and have RB2 upside on Monday Night.
Aaron Jones was a running back that was taken early in many fantasy drafts this past offseason but fell very flat in Week 1, putting managers in a state of panic. Jones shared many carries with fellow Green Bay running backs A.J. Dillon and Kylin Hill and all three finished outside of the RB50 spot in 0.5 PPR scoring formats. Now, many factors need to be considered when looking at this game to see why Jones was a dud for fantasy. The Packers had to shift their game plan and pass the ball a lot more to catch up with New Orleans, leaving their running backs with few carries to work with. Jones also may have been limited in his snaps in Week 1 so he could be preserved for later in the season since the game had gotten away from Green Bay so quickly. With that in mind, along with a favorable matchup (the Lions were one of five teams to allow over 120 rushing yards to running backs in Week 1), Monday Night has the makings of a great redemption for Jones and company. Feel confident in Jones this week.
Slightly overshadowed by the beef going on between Rodgers and Green Bay this offseason, there was another important offensive player for the Packers who was upset with the team and was airing his grievances in many forms. Davante Adams tried to negotiate a new contract over the offseason but was met with some resistance and inevitably broke off those discussions in July 2021. Adams will look to put that frustration behind him and move his focus to the 2021 season but he fell flat in Week 1, finishing the game with five receptions on seven targets for 56 yards. He, along with his fellow Packers wide receivers, did not fare well against the Saints’ secondary and will look to get things right on Monday Night. Adams, in particular, has done well against the Lions in the past, averaging seven receptions for 96 yards and one touchdown against them in his last four games versus Detroit. Look for Adams to bounce back and be an elite WR1 in Week 2.
When looking at the other wide receivers in Green Bay, none of them stuck out as a clear number two option last week. Randall Cobb led the unit (outside of Adams) in receiving yards with 32 while Marquez Valdes-Scantling led them in targets with eight and receptions with three. Those two, along with Allen Lazard, Malik Taylor, and Amari Rodgers, will look to use Monday Night’s game as a chance to solidify their status and move up the depth chart. Based on the matchup, (Detroit allowed 219 yards and two touchdowns to San Francisco’s wide receivers in Week 1), Valdes-Scantling and Lazard have some Flex appeal for Monday Night and should be solid options in that role this week with Valdes-Scantling being the best option of the two.
With the departures of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola this past offseason, the Lions’ offensive coaching staff will be looking for players to fill the 216 target void left by these three players in 2020. Obviously, no single player would be able to replace all of those targets in 2021 but they had to go somewhere. In Week 1 they were spread among newcomers Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, and Tyrell Williams along with Quintez Cephus, who started two games for Detroit last season. None of these players made much of a fantasy impact, with Cephus finishing as the best wide receiver in Week 1 for the Lions at WR43 (in 0.5 PPR scoring formats). This group will have stiff competition on Monday Night as the Packers’ secondary is one of the best in the league and was one of three teams to allow under 100 yards to wide receivers in Week 1. Keep all Detroit wide receivers on your bench/waiver wire this week.
During fantasy draft season, when managers were looking to find the next big player to emerge from the mucky tight end landscape, many were focused on T.J. Hockenson; and it makes a lot of sense. Hockenson is a talented athlete who the Lions have invested a lot of time and draft capital into and, when healthy, he is a matchup nightmare for defense much like the elite tight ends are. He proved just how valuable of an offensive weapon he can be in Week 1, posting eight receptions on eleven targets for 97 yards and one touchdown, finishing as the TE3 in 0.5 PPR scoring formats. Hockenson showed he had a good connection with Goff and will continue to be both a red zone target and a bit of a security blanket for the new quarterback. Green Bay’s defense will be tasked with trying to limit Hockenson on Monday Night but they showed some weaknesses in defending tight ends in Week 1 and will surely have their hands full this week. Keep Hockenson in your lineups this week.
Another tight end that many managers were hoping to rely on this season is Robert Tonyan. Tonyan burst onto the fantasy landscape last year, finishing as the TE3 in 2020 (in 0.5 PPR scoring formats) after two seasons playing primarily special teams and seeing limited offensive work. He proved he could be a reliable target for Rodgers, especially in the second half of the season (from Weeks 11-15, Tonyan finished with an average of 4.5 targets, 41 yards, and one touchdown in each game). Tonyan’s 2020 success has yet to transfer to this season, however, as he finished Week 1 with only eight yards on two receptions. He will get another chance on Monday Night as he faces a Lions defense that allowed 78 yards to George Kittle last week. While Tonyan certainly has many managers nervous, he will have a TE1 level performance this week and should be started on Monday Night.
Neither of these teams’ D/ST units put up good numbers in Week 1, with Green Bay even hurting lineups in certain scoring formats. Both teams allowed over 38 points and failed to obtain enough of the other statistics that can help offset a D/ST that gives up that many points, such as interceptions, fumble recoveries, and sacks. Between Green Bay and Detroit, the Packers’ D/ST has a higher upside this week due to the talent they have and the experience they have versus a Lions offense that is still relatively new but both units should be left on your bench/waiver wire on Monday Night.
This rivalry goes back to the very beginning of the NFL and has been very contentious in recent games. Detroit, while currently in a rebuilding/retooling mode, is truly a wild card team who has shown, at least through one week, that they will play extremely hard for their new head coach and have the resolve to hang around in games that should be over. While this is an improvement from the roll-over Lions teams under Patricia and the like, this staff has a ways to go before it can be compared to the system that Matt LaFleur has in Green Bay. This coaching advantage along with a higher talent level and home-field advantage gives the Packers the edge this week and will win on Monday Night by a score of 31-22.
Brandon Sysak is an staff writer for Gridiron Experts. I have been covering different aspects of the NFL, fantasy football and the NFL Draft since 2017. I am originally from Midland, MI but now reside in the Cincinnati, OH area. I began my career with Gridiron Experts covering the 2017 College Football National Championship.