The Lions are traveling in fast company, tied for first in the NFC North at 3-1 and getting national recognition for being serious contenders and not a flash in the pan.
They play at Green Bay Sunday, they haven’t beaten the Packers in a road game since 1991, when they clinched a playoff berth in Game 15 at Lambeau Field.
With the Lions riding high, isn’t this a bad time to play a team that has a 22-game home winning streak?
Mike: Glad somebody asked me – and you. Stand by for a lesson in sports psychology my good friend.
This is not a GOOD time to be playing the Packers at Lambeau.
It’s a GREAT time.
It’s the PERFECT time.
There is no way the Lions can be overconfident or get caught resting on their laurels or take the opponent for granted. The Lions could have a 40-game winning streak going to Green Bay and feel like an underdog.
The mentality they should have – and it’s one I think they will have – is that they have to play their best game of the season to beat Green Bay. The question is whether that will be good enough.
Tim: I’d certainly feel better about Sunday if the Packers weren’t coming off their bye week. They’ve been afforded the chance to get healthy. It’s also given an MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and Super Bowl winning head coach in Mike McCarthy a chance to take an extra-close look at the Lions.
That being said, this is as good a time as any for the Lions to get their first win at Lambeau Field since I was entering the sixth grade (I know that made you feel old right there, Mike).
The Lions are coming off two very good wins against Washington and Chicago, they're feeling pretty good about themselves, and the weather shouldn’t be a factor.
They won in Washington for the first time ever, they shouldn't be lacking any confidence.
What is the No. 1 key for the Lions to win in Lambeau?
Mike: There are two keys – ball security, and keeping Rodgers in the mortal category. It’s hard to rattle Rodgers, and even when he’s not at this best, he’ll make winning plays. He did that twice against the Lions last year, and he did it with his arm and his legs.
He threw the game-winning TD pass at Ford Field, and in Game 13 at Lambeau he ran 27 yards around right end for a TD that gave the Packers a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. The run came on third-and-four.
Eliminate turnovers and keep Aaron Rodgers in check – simple, isn’t it?
Tim: In theory.
The turnovers are going to be key. The Lions can’t give a quarterback of Rodgers’ caliber too many extra chances to beat them. He’s too good and will make the Lions pay.
Detroit’s done a good job of limiting turnovers this year. They are plus four in the differential, which ranks them in the top five in the league.
The defensive line has to continue to be dominant, too. The Packers have suffered some major injuries along their offensive line and the Lions need to capitalize. Rodgers and that offense are going to score, but can that defense get the Lions offense some extra possessions?
That’ll be the key in what I expect to be a shootout.
Mike, you’ve seen every one of the last 22 losses in Green Bay and Milwaukee, is this the best-equipped Lions team in the last two decades to break the streak?
Mike: It’s the best since 2001, when the Lost Decade began. However, the best chance since then to beat the Packers since 2001 was the final game of 2011, when the Packers rested Rodgers and started Matt Flynn. Flynn torched the Lions for six TD passes, and the Packers won, 45-41.
Stafford threw for 520 yards, and
It was a blown opportunity, no doubt.
Tim: I always wonder how those playoffs in 2011 would have played out if the Lions had won that game in Green Bay Week 17.
Would they have had more success on the road in New York against the Giants -- a team that eventually won the Super Bowl -- than they were against that high-powered offense in New Orleans?
We’ll never know, but a win in Green Bay on Sunday, and the Lions will be back on a good track – albeit a long one still remaining -- to making new playoff memories. Agree?
Mike: Agreed, but they’ll be on the track until the next week, when the play at Cleveland. I’m sticking to the theme I proposed at the start of the season, and that the Lions should never look further ahead than today. Practice-by-practice, play-by-play, game-by-game, and add it up at the end of the season.
I like the Lions to play well Sunday, and that is all they can control. Play well, and winning will take care of itself.
Tim: There’s no reason to think the Lions won’t play well.