Packers Game is a Career-Defining Moment for Matthew Stafford

By Vincent Frank

The numbers look great.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has put up 4,000-plus yards in each of the past four seasons. He has thrown 43 more touchdowns than interceptions in a career that has seen him boast a relatively solid 83.6 quarterback rating.

Stafford has also led the Lions to the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, this year included.

He’s a former No. 1 overall pick that still holds the single-season record for pass completions.

He once put up over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in a season.

All these numbers are fine and dandy. But one thing is extremely hard to argue. Stafford is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the NFL.

Blessed with the best receiver of the modern era in the form of Calvin Johnson, Stafford’s game has seen a steep decline since what was then a breakout 2011 performance. He’s thrown 85 interceptions in 76 career starts and possesses a career .461 winning percentage.

More than that, Stafford simply hasn’t lived up to the role of a franchise quarterback in similar situations as the one that he’s going be in on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers with the NFC North title on the line.

Over the course of his career, Stafford has posted a .379 winning percentage on the road. He’s also 13-26 in his career after the month of October. Compare that to a 22-15 record in the first two months of the season, and we start to realize that Stafford struggles when everything is on the line.

Now, we fully understand that wins and losses are a team statistic. Quarterbacks are only one part of the equation, but they also represent the largest part of that equation.

And as it relates to Stafford, he has not held up to his end of the bargain when it counts the most.

Heading into the 2014 campaign, Stafford was 1-23 against teams that finished the season with a winning record. And this year alone, he’s 2-3 against opponents who are currently over .500.

That’s a .103 winning percentage against clubs with a winning record compared to a .681 winning percentage against losing teams.

The numbers are horrible when we take into account Stafford’s performance on the road within the division during his career. Detroit has won just four of 14 outings in said games with Stafford throwing just 21 touchdowns in those 14 outings. That’s an average of 1.5 touchdowns compared to 1.9 at home during his career.

In order for the Lions to come out on top Sunday against the Packers at Lambeau Field, Stafford is going to have to pick his game up big time. He simply can’t put up a similar performance to the one he tallied on the road against the Bears last week. That’s not going to work.

Unfortunately for Detroit, the odds are not in its favor heading into this all-important matchup. Stafford has thrown as many touchdowns (six) as interceptions for a substandard 72.8 rating in seven road starts this season.

Magnifying Stafford’s road struggles even more, he’s thrown three touchdowns compared to five interceptions for a rating of under 65 in open-air environments thus far this season. Over the course of his career, Stafford has led the Lions to an 11-18 record in open-air environments.

Heading into Sunday, the stakes couldn’t be higher here. If Detroit were to go into Lambeau and win, it would earn a first-round bye and a home playoff game in the divisional round. If not, the Lions will more than likely head to Dallas to play a hot Cowboys team in the wild card round.

Needless to say, a loss on Sunday would do major damage to the Lions chances of coming out of the NFC and earning a first-ever Super Bowl championship.

And in order for the Lions to win their first game at Lambeau in nearly a quarter century, Stafford is going to have to up his game.

Photo: USA Today